The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Columns Thu, 05 May 2016 10:51:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Commentary: Republican candidate: In Maine’s 1st District, Chellie Pingree’s voting record and D.C. insider status say it all Thu, 05 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 NORTH YARMOUTH — There is no question that U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree is a well-funded and deeply entrenched member of the political establishment. During her political career, she’s raised well over $9 million, been fined for accepting rides in private jets and donated millions of her own money to other candidates and political action committees while failing to file mandatory financial disclosure forms.

And now Pingree is on a trip to Cuba that is being sponsored by a prominent D.C. special interest group. She’s jetting off with other political elites, special interests and big business leaders, all in the name of researching and protecting Cuban food production. I believe Maine organic farmers, as evidenced by the accomplishments and programs of the world-renowned Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, do not need to look to a repressive, totalitarian regime in tropical climates for their inspiration.

Even worse, she’s going on this excursion during her district workweek – a time when she’s supposed to be working at home in Maine. Instead of helping fix the important issues and challenges facing our state and our nation, Pingree is taking a trip with her political friends and showing just how out of touch she really is with our state.

This type of D.C.-insider behavior is simply unacceptable and an insult to our Maine tradition of honest and responsible government. We all know that Maine is facing severe problems including an unprecedented heroin epidemic, skyrocketing health care costs and the consequences of exploding government regulations and red tape.

I’m particularly concerned that Maine is also lagging behind the national average with regard to job creation, median household income and wage growth. But apparently, Pingree is more concerned with how a socialist dictatorship manages its subsistence farming.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Pingree has ignored the needs of her constituents and failed to look out for the interests of hardworking Mainers. For example, last year she voted against removing the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is also known as the infamous “death panel.” This non-elected board has the power to make critical cuts to Medicare spending, which could diminish the quality of heath care for our seniors. A bipartisan group of lawmakers supported eliminating this dangerous, unaccountable board – but not Pingree.

This year, she’s also voted against a common-sense bill that could help prevent the federal government from exceeding its debt limit. The bill would have required the Treasury Department to provide updates to Congress about spending levels and when the federal debt will exceed its statutory limit.

Not only would this encourage fiscal responsibility, but it also would have promoted transparency – something that is badly needed in Washington. But sadly, Pingree chose not to join the bipartisan group of legislators who supported this bill as the national debt – already amounting to over $156,000 for every family in this country – continues its crushing climb.

Quite simply, Maine can do better than this type of irresponsible leadership. I’m running for Congress because the people of Maine’s 1st District deserve an honest and effective representative who can recognize the problems that we face in Maine and provide the leadership and experience to solve them.

As a political outsider, I have a proven record of leadership and am uniquely qualified to be that voice in Congress. I’ve served nearly 30 years in the Navy, worked to improve our schools while on the Maine State Board of Education and Maine Charter School Commission and helped create Maine jobs while managing and owning small businesses. With experience ranging from helping the fight against global jihad, to countering cybersecurity threats here in Maine and aiding small businesses and creating jobs, I am ready to tackle the challenges in Maine that are important to all Mainers.

If elected, I’ll be a pragmatic leader who tackles our pressing problems head on. I know that we need strong and decisive leadership in these difficult times, and that we deserve a representative who is willing to look out for our Maine values in Congress. Unlike Rep. Pingree, I’ll work to ensure that our district has a secure and prosperous future.

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Dana Milbank: Republicans’ choice: Support or repudiate Trump’s attitudes Thu, 05 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 My neighborhood of Chevy Chase is a leafy and peaceful slice of Northwest Washington. But this week, the news here is of a woman assaulted outside the local Starbucks by a Donald Trump supporter, she says, for the sin of being Muslim.

Police on Monday released surveillance video showing a heavyset white woman shouting at, and then pouring a bottle of liquid onto, a woman in a Muslim headscarf as she sat outside the coffee shop. Police are investigating a possible hate crime.

The victim said the attacker called her a “worthless piece of Muslim trash” and a “terrorist.” And the attacker said she was supporting Trump because he would send the Muslims “back to where you came from.”

“She mentioned this man’s name to me as a way of saying, ‘He’s going to put all of you out of this country,’ ” the woman, who asked not to be identified, told me Tuesday.

But this is her country. She’s African-American, born in Minneapolis, reared in Chicago and now living in D.C.

Trump won the Indiana primary easily Tuesday night, giving him an almost certain grip on the Republican presidential nomination. Now Republicans across the country will be forced to make a moral choice: Do they associate themselves with the grotesque things that Trump and his supporters have said and done? Or do they refuse to allow such things to be said and done in their names?

At the core of Trump’s candidacy so far has been his disparagement of women, immigrants, Latinos and African-Americans, his mockery of the disabled, his play with Jewish stereotypes and his demonizing of Muslims. They all should be taken into account, but for now let’s focus on the last.

Asked about a system to register and track Muslims in the United States, Trump said, “I would certainly implement that – absolutely.” He said he would “certainly look at” closing mosques.

He falsely said there were “thousands” cheering the collapse of the World Trade Center from New Jersey, with its “heavy Arab population.”

Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Trump continues at rallies to repeat an apocryphal story about U.S. Gen. John Pershing executing Muslim prisoners in the Philippines decades ago using bullets dipped in pig’s blood.

At a rally, a Trump supporter called President Obama a Muslim and said Muslims are “a problem in this country.” Trump allowed both of those statements to stand.

Trump previously led the “birther” challenge to Obama’s birth certificate and speculated, “Maybe it says he is a Muslim.”

Trump said in a TV interview that “Islam hates us,” and, later asked if that meant all 1.6 billion of the world’s Muslims, Trump said, “I mean a lot of ’em.”

Muslims have been taunted outside Trump events, and at one event in South Carolina, a woman in a hijab who stood in silent protest was escorted out by police as Trump supporters booed her, chanted Trump’s name and suggested she was a terrorist.

Trump can’t be blamed for everything his followers do. But his ascent has coincided with a rise in the number of anti-Muslim incidents to the highest level that the Council on American-Islamic Relations has ever found. A sampling from the past two months:

 A self-proclaimed Trump supporter was sentenced in California for making death threats outside a Muslim center and for building pipe bombs.

 Demonstrators claiming to be Trump supporters staged public desecrations of the Koran in Atlanta and Phoenix.

 A man chanting Trump slogans at a gas station shouted “brown trash” and other epithets at a Muslim who is student-body vice president at Wichita State University in Kansas. (The Trump backer and a friend of the Muslim student were charged for fighting.)

 A man in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, was captured on cellphone video chanting “Trump!” and yelling “Kill the Muslims.”

 And here in Washington, my Chevy Chase neighbor was attacked on her way home from her county-government job when she stopped outside Starbucks to use the WiFi. She says she told the responding officers that her attacker had invoked Trump, but that detail apparently didn’t make the police report.

The victim said the liquid poured on her didn’t harm her. But the talk of Trump’s coming vengeance on Muslims scared her.

“It could get a lot worse for Muslims in America,” she said. “For people here on the fence about who to vote for, maybe this will help them make that decision.”

Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

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Maine Voices: Opting for dignified death with doctor’s help is our final freedom of choice Thu, 05 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 PROSPECT HARBOR — A year before my father died at age 85, he visited us at our home in Prospect Harbor. We were sitting quietly on our deck looking out over the water when he suddenly said, “If I ever get to a point where my mind is going, and I am here with you, just tell me to dive in the water and swim out to that island.”

Less than a year later, he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. At 84 years old, he had stood almost 6 feet tall, weighed 230 pounds and still had the arm and leg muscles of the college football lineman he had been at Ohio University in the late 1930s. But over the course of the next six months, his height shrank to 5 feet 8 and he lost 80 pounds; he did not have the strength to walk to the bathroom, and his mind collapsed under the pressure of the growing brain tumor.

All this happened in Indiana, with no ocean nearby, and my father lacking the faculties to understand a simple declarative statement, let alone instructions on committing suicide.

The death of a loved one is personal and painful for survivors because, as in my father’s case, we are there to witness the dying one’s suffering and are helpless legally to ease their way into a dignified death. Hospice care may help in the final months of life, especially if you are fortunate to have a sympathetic caregiver who quietly provides the opiates to speed along the inevitable. But that does not always happen.

The states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont and, most recently, California have enacted legislation that grants physicians the legal right to assist the suicides of terminally ill patients.

Canada appears to be on the verge of adopting such legislation, spurred by a ruling by that nation’s supreme court that Canadians have a constitutional right to doctor-assisted suicide in certain circumstances. Now the new Liberal Party government of Justin Trudeau has endorsed this ruling, and legislation should soon be enacted.

The Canadian law, once enacted, will not permit “suicide tourism” for terminally ill Mainers or any other nonresident, unlike Switzerland, which does, though at considerable expense to the dying individual.

Canada’s legislation requires a written request by either the dying person or by a designated representative, which must be evaluated by two physicians. If they agree, the law mandates a 15-day waiting period and allows physicians to follow their conscience by opting out of the process.

Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” legislation has been in place for nearly two decades; a 2014 state report shows that of the 1,327 fatally ill Oregonians who requested prescriptions to end their lives since the law was implemented, only 859 followed through. In the case of Vermont’s equivalent law, enacted just three years ago, only two people have availed themselves.

The Maine Democratic Party’s 2014 platform – the most recent one – includes a plank that “supports the right to informed choice in end-of-life care.” That is a less explicit version of its platform plank of 2010, which forthrightly supported physician-assisted suicide, but the intent remains the same. In either case, it is a statement favoring the individual’s freedom to deal in an intelligent manner with the last choice they will have to make in their lives.

The Maine Republican Party, however, states in its 2014 party platform that the party believes “in the sanctity of human life – from conception to natural death.” Of course, in the same platform the party defines marriage as “a union of one man and one woman.”

The Maine Republican Party notwithstanding, physician-assisted suicide, like marriage equality, recognizes that greater personal freedom is a good unto itself, as long as one person’s freedom does not negate another’s.

Had my father lived in Oregon or Washington state 10 years ago, he would have been spared much of the torment he had to endure over the last six months of his life, and his children today would not still be discussing how helpless we felt then in carrying out his wishes for a dignified death.

Maine was a national leader in expanding the freedom to marry whomever one loves. Should we not also join the few other states leading the way by legalizing physician-assisted suicide for the sake of the dignity of those we love?

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Leonard Pitts: When social change presents quandary, choose reflection over fear-mongering Wed, 04 May 2016 10:00:00 +0000 Our question for today: What is the proper etiquette when confronted with an unexpected penis?

That’s from Roz, a Baltimore-area reader who emailed me a few days ago. Roz describes herself as a left-wing progressive, a “long-time supporter of gay rights,” a feminist and a Democrat who worked for President Obama’s election.

But Roz is concerned about transgender people in the bathroom – more accurately, the locker room. “I am all for trans people having equal rights,” she writes, “but what about when they collide with non-trans people’s privacy?”‘

Roz’s question grows from an experience years ago at a spiritual retreat in California; she says she “freaked out” when a naked guy appeared in the group shower. “I was raised in the ’50s to think I am not supposed to expose my naked body to strangers of the opposite sex,” writes Roz, who says she swims three times a week for exercise and walks through the women’s locker room in the buff.

“I have no problem with trans people of whatever biology or stage of transition in bathroom stalls” she says, “but what about locker rooms where nudity is normal? I would be very uncomfortable if I was unclothed and someone two feet away from me took off their clothes and a penis appeared.”

Roz wants to know if she is prejudiced and needs to “get over this,” or whether it is fair to ask trans people to make accommodations in common areas where it is normal for people to walk around starkers.

I think it’s a good question. Wish I had a good answer, but I don’t. I toss the question out in hopes someone more qualified than I will offer some insight. If anything of interest comes through, I’ll share it.

Meantime, Roz’s email offers a valuable primer in the way thoughtful people confront the inevitable quandaries and conundrums raised by social change. They question conscience, they search soul, they struggle to find the answer that best respects the needs and dignity of all involved.

Her example stands in sharp contrast to those being offered in North Carolina and elsewhere, where laws and rules are being pondered and passed in a panicky haste to restrict transgender people to the restroom corresponding with their birth gender. This, we are told, is necessary to prevent sexual molestation of children in public facilities.

Which is, of course, nothing more than a new iteration of the old canard about lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people as sexual predators. You will notice that nobody is contemplating new laws to protect children from Dennis Hastert.

That’s because protecting children is not the point. The exploitation and manipulation of fear is.

Increasingly, this is what our lawmakers do. How many times have you seen laws promulgated to address things that never happen?

Remember California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bid for a constitutional amendment to outlaw flag burning? Remember when Oklahoma tried to amend its constitution to stop the use of Sharia law?

These bathroom bans, then, are of a piece with the new American ethos. Home of the brave?

Try fiefdom of fear. And not even fear of stuff that might happen. No, fear of stuff that never will.

For many Americans, fear is the reflexive response to social change. They are threatened by what is outside their experience, by whatever is new, or different, or odd. And too often, those fears get enshrined into law by pandering legislators, building walls to restrict what they don’t even try to understand.

Roz’s email is a timely reminder that a person can choose to be better than that. She can challenge herself, grapple the fears to which other people surrender. She can reject the false security of walls.

And maybe even build a few bridges instead.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald. He can be contacted at:

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Maine Voices: Forward-thinking policies put Portland on path to ending long-term homelessness Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Portland City Manager Jon Jennings has proposed that housing developers using city funds agree to set aside 10 percent of units in resulting developments to house people who have been languishing in city homeless shelters.

I think it is a brilliant strategy.

When placing people in its properties both in and out of Portland, Community Housing of Maine has gone out of its way to seek and house those who have been homeless the longest – and the results have been nothing short of amazing. The city’s staff have done an outstanding job referring tenants who turned out to be a good match for each property, and have provided more-than-adequate support services to ensure the success of each resident.

The most compelling result is the transformation of the individuals served. When people were moved directly from years and often decades of homelessness right into housing, they changed in front of our eyes.

Three years later, a gentleman who had been homeless for at least 16 years before moving in looks significantly younger already. Instead of drinking on the streets, he is perfecting his hobby of cooking, and makes a regular habit of watching cooking shows with his neighbor, who also came from long-term homelessness. When you stop in to visit him unannounced, there is no sign of alcohol – just a calm, kind, amicable, pleasant individual, now with a short haircut and a nice, neat apartment (with cooking programs on).

In one 30-unit Portland property for people aged 55 and older, Community Housing has housed 24 “long-term stayers” so far. Ten percent would be three people; Community Housing has certainly exceeded that.

Though the property has been open only three years, seven people have died from within this population: evidence of long-term stress and the 25 years of extra physiological age borne by people who endure chronic homelessness. A number of people have moved successfully to other apartments, and 14 people have stayed.

These are all success stories. Even those residents of this building who died did so with the dignity and peace that come with having a home. Not a single person returned to the homeless shelter, and by all accounts, the building is a calm, quiet and pleasant place to live.

How could this be? It has to do with the underlying causes of long-term homelessness. People with serious and persistent mental illness are often psychotic when homeless. This is not surprising: The incidence of psychosis increases with stress, and chronic homelessness is arguably the most stressful situation one can experience (hence, 55-year-olds present like 80-year-olds). But housing nearly erases that stress. And along with that, the incidence of psychosis diminishes.

People do well because, for this population, housing is health care. It doesn’t do it all, but it sets that stage for success in the community. The rest is a combination of adequate support, and individuals doing their part to be reasonable in the housing – which they do, time and time again.

Portland is on track to be among the first places in the country to end chronic homelessness; we can get there within a year with forward-thinking policies like this. Community collaboration will ensure we will achieve success.

Almost exactly a year ago, nine community organizations came together to help the city solve overcrowding at the Oxford Street Shelter. The goal was to house the people staying the longest. City staff have done much of the heavy lifting, building relationships with sometimes very distrustful people entrenched in homelessness and helping them move into housing.

But the other organizations – including Community Housing, Shalom House, the Frannie Peabody Center, the Milestone Foundation, The Opportunity Alliance, Preble Street, Catholic Charities, Amistad and the Department of Veterans Affairs – have all played significant roles in housing people and keeping them housed with effective support services.

This scattered-site, housing-first model has an 85 to 90 percent success rate across the country. The city’s housing-first placements – 68 in the last year – have done even better, evidence that their support is effective. Out of the 68 placements, they have had only four returns. This is working.

Portland’s city manager is saying, in effect, “Please, let’s do more of this,” and I agree.

There are fewer than 50 people left in the shelter who have been there long-term. It is a disservice to keep anyone in homelessness – it is a major system failure.

I applaud City Manager Jennings’ stance. With everyone lifting, we can easily end chronic homelessness in Maine. Let’s house them all – one at a time. Portland will be better for it.


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Greg Kesich: Backing away from vote, Rep. Timmons, cohorts show no backbone Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In a couple of weeks the John F. Kennedy Library will announce this year’s Profiles in Courage award, honoring a public official for standing up to political pressure.

They won’t release the winner’s name until May 29, but we can be pretty sure who’s not getting it: (spoiler alert) Mike Timmons.

That’s because the Republican House member from Cumberland and four colleagues ended the Legislative session last week by “taking a walk” (more like hiding in an office) to avoid voting to override a veto of a bill that they had previously backed.

Without them, the bill – L.D. 1649, a modernization of the state’s solar power market – failed to get the two-thirds support it needed to become law over the governor’s objection, wasting an opportunity to create jobs and provide a predictable framework for millions of dollars in private investments.

So much of what goes on in the Legislature is invisible to the public. It’s all about process and rules and “yes” can mean either “yes” or “no,”depending on how the question is asked. Legislators make thousands of votes and most of the time there is no way of knowing what influenced them.

But votes like this shine a bright light on how things work. When lawmakers vote to pass a bill and then vote to uphold the governor when he vetoes it, it’s pretty clear what’s going on – they are more afraid of dissappointing him than they are about letting down the people back home. And when they purposely hide out rather than vote at all, it means that they don’t want the people back home to know about it.

Timmons’ walking partners were Kathleen Dillingham of Oxford, Mary Anne Kinney of Knox, John Pichiotti of Fairfield and Brian Hobart of Bowdoinham. A sixth member, Timothy Theriault of China, joined the walkers after reportedly giving the bill’s supporters the impression that he would reverse his previous “no” vote.

None of the members who hid in the House Republican office during the crucial second override vote was particularly courageous, but Timmons deserves special recognition because he has been here before: A year ago he voted to sustain a veto of a bill that would have forced the release of land conservation bonds that included key financing for two projects in his district. These projects were overwhelmingly supported by his constituents, and the bill had been backed by Timmons himself – until it came back vetoed. Then he changed his vote.

Last July he went home for a blistering session at the Cumberland Town Council, where he squirmed before a panel of councilors, who let him know about how they felt about him turning his back on them.

“You knew it was going to kill our (land) trust, it was going to kill the money for Knight’s Pond, it was going to kill (funding) for Wormell’s (farm),” Town Councilor Michael Edes told Timmons. “The people from the town of Cumberland want these projects. To think that my representative, and the person representing Cumberland, deep-sixed this thing, submarined it … we needed your vote.”

You would think that any legislator who had an experience like that would want to avoid a repeat, but Timmons must find the governor very persuasive.

The solar bill was the product of a six-month collaborative process, in which utilities, solar installers, environmental groups and the state’s public advocate devised a system that would quickly expand solar power in Maine in a way that would not be a burden to nonsolar rate payers. It was exactly the kind of government most people say they want – various interests working together to find common ground.

Then Gov. LePage put on his full-court press.Now what happens?

The LePage-appointed Public Utilities Commission will take over a review of solar power policy, which could take the rest of the year, chilling most solar investment in 2016.

If, as some suspect, the PUC drastically cuts the rate that utilities pay solar customers for the power they supply to the grid, it would threaten to kill off what’s left of the state’s solar industry.

Then we can expect an all-or-nothing referendum in the next year or two that would sweeten the deal for people who want solar panels on their roofs. It won’t be a compromise like the 2016 solar bill, but why would anyone want to compromise in this political environment?

To do that kind of governing, you need something that’s been missing in Augusta, and the six House members who “took a walk” show what it is – the courage to stand up to LePage.

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Charles Lawton: Going beyond Portland to understand 4 regions key to state growth Tue, 03 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Whenever I, or anyone else, use the phrase “the two Maines,” there follow two immediate responses. The first is: “Well, everything south of Portland is just northern Massachusetts anyway.” The second is: “What a terrible disservice to all the unique places in ‘the rest of Maine’!”

With that in mind, and with full knowledge that no amount of evidence is ever a match for any individual’s sense of terminal uniqueness, I have been led again to consider two questions that have long bedeviled Maine policymakers:

 Short of dealing with each of the nearly 500 municipalities in Maine, what grouping makes sense for trying to design and successfully implement development policies?

What are the key commonalities and distinct differences that make any combination of villages, towns, cities and counties similar to each other and distinct from other regions?

Setting aside the Portland metropolitan area (York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties), the “rest of Maine” can usefully be thought of as four regions organized around rivers, the ocean and the Canadian border.

The first (in the sense simply of geographic sequence) is the midcoast region (Lincoln, Knox, Waldo and Hancock counties); the second is the Androscoggin region (Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties); the third is the Kennebec region (Kennebec, Somerset and Piscataquis counties); and the fourth is the eastern region (Penobscot, Washington and Aroostook counties).

Each of these regions is bound together by a pre-20th century, water-based transportation spine (often later mirrored by a highway) and a downriver or coastal urban hub. Each also has an upriver, inland or seaward periphery that is forest-, agricultural- or fishing-based and from which, over the past two centuries, industrialization has come and, over the last 30 years, largely departed.

Analyzed according to the simple metric of employment growth between 2010 (the end of the Great Recession) and 2015, the regions exhibit a clear pattern relative to distance from the south.

For the Portland area, total employment growth over the five-year period was 3 percent; for the midcoast region, it was 2.3 percent; for the Androscoggin region, it was just above 1 percent; for the Kennebec region, just below 1 percent, and for the eastern region, it was minus 1.7 percent.

And like Russian nesting dolls, each of these regions exhibits a pattern of declining employment growth that similarly mirrors the distance from its urban center. In the Androscoggin region, for example, five-year rates of employment growth go from 3.6 percent in Androscoggin County to 2.2 percent in Oxford County to minus 2.8 percent in Franklin County.

In the Kennebec region, the employment growth rate was 2.5 percent in Kennebec County, 0.8 percent in Somerset County and minus 0.2 percent in Piscataquis County. The Penobscot-Washington-Aroostook cascade is, respectively, 1.7 percent to minus 2.2 percent to minus 4.5 percent.

Similarly cascading declines are true for total retail sales and for the subset associated with the tourism and hospitality sector: lodging, restaurant and “other merchandise” sales (meaning non-department store, non-big box and specialty stores).

Looking at these patterns, the question naturally arises, “Does geography, then, equal destiny?” Is the effort to replace the rapidly disappearing rural manufacturing base futile?

Will employment simply flow down from the mountains and streams to downriver urban centers and out to sea like so much water following the dictates of natural laws it doesn’t understand? Or is there some strategic action we might take to interrupt this flow, to dam it up (so to speak) and use it to generate new forms of economic activity within each region?

The answer seems to me to lie in picking our battles, in resisting the urge to spread scarce investment dollars evenly all over, trying to solve every little problem. We will be better served by focusing on the urban centers in each region and making them more internally sustainable (and thereby more useful to their peripheries).

The investments along Bangor’s waterfront have paid significant dividends. Tourism sales are up 12 percent over the last five years in Penobscot County, compared to growth of 6 percent in Washington County and a drop of 3 percent in Aroostook County. The growth of Athena Health in Belfast has had significant effects throughout Waldo County. The expansions of The Jackson Laboratory in Ellsworth and Collaborative Consulting in Waterville promise similarly broad benefits throughout, respectively, Hancock and Kennebec counties.

Economic growth is less analogous to the field-by-field, seed-by-seed expansion of crop agriculture than to the spread of strawberries, where a strong plant sends out runners in search of the most fertile location in all directions. Somewhere one runner finds a good spot, sinks roots and a strong new plant arises, often far from its origins. We need to prepare our soil and welcome the runners around us.

Charles Lawton is chief economist for Planning Decisions, Inc. He can be contacted at:

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Kathleen Parker: Trump’s derogatory words against women condemn him as a candidate Tue, 03 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 One of the most effective political ads of the season features women repeating the many derogatory statements Donald Trump has made about the fairer sex.

No editorial comment is needed when a candidate’s own words stand alone to expose his flaws, and thus to condemn him.

Just ask Mitt Romney, whose 47 percent remark effectively ended his presidential aspirations. Saying that he wasn’t worried about the 47 percent of people who are on some form of welfare was perceived as exposing a lack of compassion for the poor. His ruin on that account may not have been fair, but it was enough.

Trump, by contrast, can say nearly anything and escape judgment from a majority of Republican primary voters. Hearing him refer to women as “bimbo,” “dog” or “fat pig” has left him sufficiently unscathed.

Moreover, Republicans rarely suffer for criticizing Hillary Clinton. “Hating Hillary” is a chronic obsession on the right, especially among men for whom Trump spoke when he recently told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough that it was too early in the morning for him to listen to Clinton’s “shouting.”

There’s no denying that a woman’s raised voice is every man’s nightmare – for so many obvious reasons. For similarly obvious reasons, it is never politic for a man to point this out.

Unless it seems, you’re Trump.

He and Scarborough were chatting about Trump’s recent comment that all Clinton had going for her was the female vote and accused her of playing the “woman’s card.” Just being a woman apparently is playing this card in Trump’s world.

Despite the daunting competition, nothing else Trump has said has been further from the truth. That is, until he said it. In no time, Clinton’s campaign was offering a pink, credit card-sized “Woman Card” to online donors. Trump also provided Clinton the sort of touché moment atheists pray for:

“Well, if fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in,” she said in an impassioned voice. (Trump-lator: Screeching like a wounded owl.)

Adding confetti and champagne to his gift, Trump went on: “And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. … And the beautiful thing is that women don’t like her, OK?”

Oh, thank you, roared the columnist from her bunker. Do we hear a hallelujah? Hallelujah!

Thus heralding the obvious question: What if Trump were a woman? Imagine a Donna Trump running as a Republican who:

n Got her start with more than $1 million from her father’s business, parlayed into billions via four bankruptcies and various business failures.

n Wouldn’t disclose tax returns and donated to many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton.

n Ran a university wracked by allegations of fraud.

n Imported two of her three husbands from overseas, one of them on a “model” visa, and dumped the second husband days before their prenuptial agreement could hurt her wallet.

n Said that if abortion were illegal, women who had abortions should be punished.

n Knew nothing about foreign policy or even how to pronounce the names of countries.

n Routinely cursed, called people names, demonized her opponents, Mexicans, Muslims and others, and called men “dogs,” “morons” and “fat slobs.”

If Trump were a woman, not only would he not get 5 percent of the vote, he’d be tarred, feathered, branded and ridden out of town backward on a donkey. Voters male and female would recognize immediately that such a woman was inappropriate, lacking in quality and character – and utterly unqualified to be president of the United States.

The only thing Trump’s got going for him, one’s tempted to say, is the men’s vote, which is no way to deflect accusations of a Republican war on women. But as Trump himself would assert, at least he’s keeping it classy.

Kathleen Parker is a columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group. She can be contacted at:

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Maine Voices: Legislators score a victory for those at risk of overdose and those who love them Tue, 03 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Last Friday was a victory for a woman named Cheryl.

On Jan. 6, 2010, Cheryl died of an opioid overdose on her kitchen floor. She was 52.

Last Friday, 161 Maine lawmakers – Democrats, Republicans and independents – joined together to tell our governor that Cheryl was not an addict, but a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister, a neighbor and a friend who happened to have suffered from a disease called addiction.

They told him she was a small-business owner who started her own nail salon, a volunteer at her church, a gourmet chef who loved to entertain and an animal lover who found joy in walking her dogs, even when she barely felt like getting out of bed. They told our governor that she had value, that her life was worth saving. They told him how much she still loved the world, and that she still meant the world to the people who loved her.

I wonder every day what more my family could have done to save my mother’s life. What if someone had checked on her 30 minutes sooner? What if my dad had quit his job to care for her? What if we’d had a supply of Narcan in the house?

And ever since Gov. LePage vetoed a legislative proposal to make Narcan easier to obtain, I’ve spent every day wondering how the governor of a state – a man who was elected to represent 1.3 million human beings – could suggest that my mother should have been left to die, as Narcan only would have extended her life “until the next overdose.”

It doesn’t matter that my mother lived in Texas instead of Maine, because it would be ridiculous to suggest that where you live determines the value of your life. Nor does it matter that she died from prescription painkillers rather than heroin, because it would be ridiculous to suggest that the form that your addiction takes has any bearing on your worth as a person.

So, too, it would be ridiculous to suggest that my mother’s life was somehow worth more than that of someone who fits the “junkie” stereotype the governor is so fond of disparaging. Dying at home with a bottle of pills by your side is no different than dying under a bridge with a needle in your arm.

We should do something about the opioid epidemic not because it’s affecting suburban middle-class white women who don’t conform to the clichés we associate with heroin addicts. We should do something about the opioid epidemic because no human life is disposable, and because we are all fundamentally the same.

I don’t think of last Friday’s vote as a victory for my political party, as people of every political party struggle with addiction. Rather, it was a victory for my mother. It was a victory for every one of us who loves someone at risk of overdose. It was a victory for our state. And it was a victory for humanity.

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Maine Voices: Portland Community Health Center standing by with safety net Mon, 02 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The city of Portland recently announced a proposed budget initiative that includes closing the city-funded India Street Public Health Clinic and reallocating city resources to support other essential public health functions, while moving many direct clinical services to Portland Community Health Center, an existing nonprofit funded by the federal government. This would happen in two phases: A portion of India Street’s patients and services would move by Jan. 1, 2017, with all others to follow by June 30, 2017.

The services at India Street have a long and well-loved history among patients, staff and the community. To ensure that current India Street patients continue to receive the comprehensive health care they need, city officials asked Portland Community Health Center to work with them to develop a comprehensive plan for the seamless integration of patients and systems into our care.

This transition plan will provide patients with continued access to the services they need at a practice that is nationally recognized as meeting standards for team-based, patient-centered medical homes.

Portland Community Health Center has appeared in the news quite frequently lately, and there have been some inaccuracies concerning our history, programs and services. I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight about who we are as an organization, and whom we serve.

Portland Community Health Center is a community nonprofit that provides comprehensive primary care services to 6,646 patients who represent Portland’s diverse population with the full spectrum of ages and medical needs. Our mission is to provide a safe and welcoming health care environment for anyone in need, regardless of ability to pay. As a federally qualified health center, we receive a comprehensive reimbursement rate for programs and services, so patients are charged on a sliding-scale fee based on income and insurance, or lack thereof.

At our five locations in Portland and South Portland, our services include not only primary medical care for every age and gender, but also mental health counseling, treatment for substance abuse, preventive dental care, and management of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, HIV/AIDS, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension and heart disease.

We support patients with health and wellness education and coaching, assistance obtaining health insurance coverage, case management and coordination of care.

We abide by rigorous quality practice standards and demonstrate a systematic, organization-wide commitment to uncompromising service to patients through our quality assurance and quality improvement program. As part of this program, we track key clinical outcomes, using performance data to help us manage the health of everyone in our care. We also conduct quarterly patient satisfaction surveys, on which we scored in the 96th percentile in January.

We understand that changing health care providers is a sensitive issue, particularly when dealing with a life-threatening illness or managing a chronic condition, and we empathize with the concerns of India Street patients, staff and community members about this proposed change.

We also recognize community concerns regarding the transfer of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Because this program funds primary medical care and critical support services to uninsured or underinsured HIV patients in the United States, it is essential for many of the current patients who receive treatment at India Street. While we currently provide primary care to HIV patients, we are looking to further integrate HIV specialty care and treatment into our practice in a thoughtful way that strengthens services to people living with HIV.

We understand that some India Street patients may feel concerned about what will happen to them if the city decides to close the clinic. If the city decides to make this transition, we want to assure the community that we will willingly expand our services to accommodate all patients and provide continuity of care.

It is important to remember that the proposed transition time provides ample opportunity to create a thorough, thoughtful plan that puts the safety and care of patients at the forefront. We are dealing with people’s lives, and are therefore responsible for the well-being of all patients. Our top priority is to make sure no one will fall through the cracks.

Portland Community Health Center is standing by to be of service in whatever way we can. Most important, we are committed to continuing to offer excellent care and a positive, safe environment for all.

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Alan Caron: What one immigrant can teach us Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Hamdi Ulukaya grew up in a family of semi-nomadic shepherds and cheese-makers in the Kurdish region of Turkey, not far from the Euphrates River. In 1994, he managed to make his way to New York to attend college and learn English.

Three years later, while working at a farm in upstate New York, he added a few business classes at the nearby state university.

While his father was visiting him there, they found themselves commiserating about the poor quality of the local feta cheese and the watered-down, over-sweet goo that Americans called yogurt. Ulukaya’s father urged him to begin importing the family’s feta cheese, and he agreed. By 2002, Hamdi had opened a small factory making the kind of authentic feta cheese he’d grown up with.

In 2005, he bought an abandoned Kraft yogurt factory in New Berlin, New York, with help from the Small Business Administration and state government. He wanted to make the kind of strained yogurt that he’d known in Turkey – thicker and richer, with more bite and protein.

Hamdi was inspired to name the company Chobani, which derives from the Turkish word for shepherd.

Soon, he brought in specialists from Turkey and scoured the country for the equipment he would need. Then he rehired some of the laid-off workers from the plant, and together they went to work. While the employees repainted the facility and set up new production lines, Hamdi spent two years perfecting the process of making what came to be called Greek yogurt.

By 2012, Chobani had reached $1 billion in sales and Hamid was a billionaire employing more than a thousand manufacturing workers. When he started, Greek yogurt represented just 1 percent of all yogurt sales in the country. Today that number is 50 percent.

Last week, Hamdi announced that he was giving 10 percent of his company to his employees, based on their length of service. For most, that will mean a $100,000 to $150,000 windfall. Some will become instant millionaires.

There are many lessons for Maine from Hamdi’s story. One is that turning energetic and skilled immigrants away is a crazy thing to do, especially in an economy like ours that needs those things. It reminds us that immigrants come in all sizes and shapes. Some are unskilled and simply looking for opportunity. But a great many others, particular those who are fleeing wars and famine, come with extensive education, skills and talent. And they tend to create jobs at a faster rate than we do now.

Blending all immigrants together into one big group may help politicians build coalitions of anger, but it is dumb economics. Growing economies need infusions of energy and talent, wherever those ingredients come from. Trying to grow an economy without those things is like baking bread without yeast. It doesn’t rise.

The Chobani story also demonstrates that tomorrow’s big companies are often incubating among today’s small ones – and that great ideas and new products often come from other cultures that we can learn from. That cross-fertilization is how human societies have grown, and how America grew. In this case, it’s about yogurt. Who knows what it will be tomorrow?

We’ve had a hard time, over these last few years, with this issue of immigration. With little thanks to our current governor – the child of not-distant immigrants himself – our long-standing uneasiness with people from away has been fanned into open hostility to people who are “different.”

In a recent speech, the governor went so far as to mimic foreign accents, in the way we might expect from either an insecure and deranged adult or a child who doesn’t yet know better.

All of it has created a shameful spectacle for a state that was once known for its decency, common sense and ingenuity but is now seen around the country as a place consumed with angry division. This has been a period in our history that we’ll spend a long time repairing.

The issue of immigration has become one of the defining moral and economic challenges of our time. It is one that none of us can simply observe from the sidelines. The immigration discussion asks us to choose between inclusion and exclusion, and between hope and fear. And it challenges us to reject the ancient human fears of “the others” in order to make Maine a welcoming state for everyone who wants to help us build the future together.

How we decide that question will define what kind of Maine the next generation will inherit from us.

Alan Caron is the owner of Caron Communications and the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” and “Reinventing Maine Government.” He can be contacted at:

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Commentary: Preparing for the end of life Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As doctors, we are trained to solve problems.

If an arm is broken, we set it. If a heart valve is leaking, we replace it. If infection strikes, we do our best to cure it. There is real satisfaction when, as physicians, we make an accurate diagnosis and deploy an effective treatment.

Perhaps that’s why, when there is no problem to be solved, we don’t always do our best work. Death, after all, is not a solvable problem. All our patients will die. We can’t fix that. And too often, as a result, we don’t do all we should or could to help our patients accept the inevitable.

Physicians are not alone, of course. Our society generally does a poor job of seeing death as a natural outcome of life. Many of us maintain the myth of our own invincibility long past our 20s. And where death was once something that typically happened at home, in the presence of family and friends, it more often happens today in a hospital or nursing home.

When confronted with the question, “How do you want to die?” many of us might answer, “I don’t.” But this question, the kind of death we want for ourselves, lives with us every day of our lives. It is true that extending life is a desirable and legitimate goal of our health care system, but the quality of our lives – and of our deaths – have a place as well.

None of us can solve death as if it’s a problem, but we can all have goals for the end of our lives. And it is that change, from problem-solving to goal-setting, which can lead us as physicians to do better by our patients when it comes to end-of-life care.

Of course, better end-of life-care, like better health overall, is not just the doctor’s responsibility. Just as everyone needs to do their part in the work of extending and improving life by not smoking, exercising and eating a healthy diet, so, too, must our patients take an active and informed role in good end-of-life planning.

The rewards can be a bit counter-intuitive. Research shows that among those who are given a terminal diagnosis, having an end-of-life plan that includes goal-directed care like hospice leads to care that is not only less costly, but patients on average are happier and actually live longer than those who exhaust every treatment option.

The good news is members of the medical community are beginning to embrace these changes. Across the MaineHealth system, for instance, events were planned around National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16, organized to raise awareness of better end-of-life planning. And every day the conversation is growing among doctors, nurses and other practitioners about the need to talk to our patients about the benefits of creating advanced directives for health care and thoughtful end-of-life options such as hospice care.

For all this good work, though, the most important lessons I learned about death and dying didn’t come as part of my medical training. They came from my parents.

During my internship year, my dad, a relatively young man in his late 50s, had to struggle with the decision of whether to undergo chemotherapy for advanced lung cancer. He decided that his goal was not to pursue more days alive, but rather, to live the rest of his life meaningfully.

He chose to forgo chemotherapy and identified the goals he wanted to meet before dying. He completed the design of a church he was working on. He deliberately and intimately connected with family and friends. He put his financial affairs in order. He even planned his entire visitation service and funeral, including designing the memorial card handed out at his wake.

Importantly, he didn’t do this alone. He had to talk with a lot of people. Everyone important to him knew the plan. His family, his doctor, his business associates and his close friends all understood what to expect. And we all knew that my dad was living the way he always had, in a thoughtful and loving manner.

And, he spent time conversing with his God. “I don’t have a problem with dying,” he would say. “I’m just not sure I agree with the timing.”

My father was able to have the kind of death he wanted because he thought about it beforehand and took steps to insure that he died the way he had always lived.

Years later, my mother died from Parkinson’s disease. I am grateful to this day for the afternoon she spent with me not long after her diagnosis putting her thoughts down into a medical directive that would guide my family through the end stages of that illness. It was a natural and rewarding conversation in part because we didn’t set out to produce a perfect document, just one that would work for my mom and our family.

As a doctor, I have seen the alternatives to these thoughtful deaths.

I remember the first time I responded to a code in the hospital. I was a young medical student. A “code” or “code blue” is called over the intercom system of a hospital when a patient has had an unexpected cardiac arrest.

Amongst all the commotion, the thing that stood out the most to me was the patient. She was very frail, very old – and lifeless. The whole scene struck me as too much. It felt invasive and out of place.

Despite the apparent futility of the efforts, the “code” continued for what seemed to be a very long time. As is the case with the vast majority of “code blues,” the effort was not successful.

There is a reason why 65 percent of older physicians have an advanced directive, compared to 20 percent of the population generally. We know the limits of modern medicine. As a result, we know how we would like to die.

As physicians we must resolve to build end-of-life conversations into the care of all our patients. The time to start the conversation is long before a terminal diagnosis. And as with smoking cessation, progress will depend not on one conversation but instead on an ongoing dialogue.

If you are a patient and your doctor hasn’t brought up end-of-life care, don’t be shy. Ask. The time to start is now, and it is a conversation that should include not only your doctor, but all those close to you.

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Cynthia Dill: Democrats must unite to stack deck against Trump Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.

If they’re shouting after you, keep going.

Don’t ever stop. Keep going.

If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

Even in the darkest of moments, ordinary Americans have found the faith to keep going.”

That paraphrase of Harriet Tubman was intoned by Hillary Clinton as she moved the nomination of Barack Obama to be the party’s torchbearer at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

These words of perseverance, tenacity and steadfastness sum up what Clinton’s supporters deeply admire about her – as well as reflect the energy and passion of the Bernie Sanders campaign as it fervently works to stretch and challenge the Democratic Party to do better.

The New York Times captured that magical moment of unity eight years ago: “The unanimous vote made Mr. Obama the first African-American to become a major party nominee for president. It brought to an end an often-bitter two-year political struggle for the nomination with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who, standing on a packed convention floor electric with anticipation, moved to halt the roll call in progress so that the convention could nominate Mr. Obama by acclamation. That it did with a succession of loud roars, followed by a swirl of dancing, embracing, high-fiving and chants of ‘Yes, we can.’ ”

Yes, we did. And we will again.

What is past is prologue. Democrats came together in 2008, and unity is in the cards again for 2016 because the alternative is terrifying. The stakes are simply too high. A Trump all-white house of cards will collapse.

Look no further than Vacationland to see what happens when a wild card is given the power to govern. Maine has a chief executive playing with a few cards short of a full deck, and we are losing.

We are losing money. We are losing people. And most damaging is that we are losing faith in institutions and our collective ability to make progress, solve problems and live in peace. It’s depressing and demoralizing to live under a LePage administration, and Trump Nation would be even worse.

Trump laid his soiled cards again on the table last week, accusing Clinton of playing “the women’s card,” after he said last week Tubman’s face isn’t worthy of appearing on the $20 bill.

A pair of strong women beats a Joker, of course, but we can’t risk electing a boor. Even one with big hands.

Say what you will about the foul smell of party politics, but you can’t deny the dignity displayed by Democrats this election season – and dignity has extrinsic value, like fresh air. Clinton and Sanders fiercely debate while respectfully addressing each other by their formal names. Formality is a hallmark of the United States presidency because being president is an awesome responsibility. Sophomoric name calling has been the hallmark of the Republican contest and their candidates should be ashamed of themselves.

It is a safe bet that Democrats will coalesce around their nominee because their contest is one of ideas, not personality, and it’s ideas plus action that make this country strong.

“We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country. Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe,” said Obama in 2008, and then he proved it.

“The United States flag does not belong to an ideology or political party,” said John Kerry in 2008, and what came next were eight years of a scandal-free administration and beautiful first family who serve as shining beacons of hope around the world.

“Democracy is not a guaranty but rather an opportunity. Will we seize this opportunity?” asked Al Gore in 2008, to which we responded with a resounding “yay,” and the American economy is better for it.

“The private sector has added jobs for 73 consecutive months – some 14.4 million new jobs in all – the longest period of sustained job growth on record. Unemployment, which peaked at 10 percent the year Obama took office, the highest it had been since 1983, under Ronald Reagan, is now 5 percent, lower than when Reagan left office. The budget deficit has fallen by roughly $1 trillion during his two terms. And overall U.S. economic growth has significantly outpaced that of every other advanced nation,” according to Andrew Ross Sorkin in The New York Times.

So let’s call a spade a spade. Donald Trump is not a strong leader, has no viable plan for growing our economy, does not bring people together and will not protect us or improve the quality of our lives. He lacks a moral compass. He’s a fake, and his presidency would be a disaster.

It’s up to the Democratic nominee to call Trump’s bluff, and she or he can only do that if everyone who believes in equal opportunity and justice ante’s up after the convention and places their chips on the winning candidate.

“People are more impressed with the power of our example than the example of our power,” said Bill Clinton in 2008. “Last night Hillary told us in no uncertain terms that she is going to do everything she can to elect Barack Obama,” Mr. Clinton also said. “That makes two of us.”

Democrats need to follow suit in 2016 to stack the deck against Trump.

Cynthia Dill is a civil rights lawyer and former state senator. She can be contacted at:

Twitter: dillesquire

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Maine Voices: The college experience should not foster a career at the expense of character Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Over the next few weeks, thousands of graduates will walk across the stage to receive college diplomas marking an achievement and commencing the next phase of their lives.

Today’s graduates, parents and educators might learn from Ben Braddock, Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie “The Graduate,” about the challenges in taking that next step in life. After a successful collegiate career – track star, editor of the school newspaper and a Frank Helpingham Award Scholar – Ben returns home adrift, with no sense of direction.

Ben’s parents have high expectations for him, and a family friend offers him advice: “Plastics. … There’s a great future in plastics.” But a synthetic will not do in a situation that cries out for authenticity.

Former Yale English professor William Deresiewicz, author of “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life,” might call Ben a professional hoop-jumper, an “excellent sheep” who’s spent his life fulfilling societal expectations – acing exams, amassing extracurricular activities and building an impressive resume.

Ben’s education at a prestigious institution positioned him for worldly success, but failed to furnish him with a rich inner life, high ideals and a passion to serve others to build a better society. Ben’s collegiate education has given him no direction, no purpose in life and no vision of the world.

The purpose of college is for students to build a self, argues Deresiewicz, which involves introspection, exposure to new ideas, challenging received assumptions, nurturing intellectual curiosity and pursuing big questions about life, society and the world. It requires time to read, think and engage in conversations about a wide range of human experiences.

Students who receive a diploma without this kind of education have missed out on a critical aspect of the collegiate experience. Deresiewicz claims the elite universities have drifted away from giving students this experience. At its best, the college experience promises personal transformation. As John Henry Newman, the 19th-century author of “The Idea of a University,” observed: “A university education should ensure that students do not stand where they did, but have a new center, a new range of thoughts to which they were before strangers.”

But personal transformation is only half the collegiate story. Increasingly, college students are not privileged hoop-jumpers like Ben Braddock but first-generation students from blue-collar families who recognize that the type of jobs available with only a high school education in today’s economy block entry into the middle class.

Much has been made of the decline in manufacturing jobs that limit employment opportunities to flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s or serving coffee at Starbucks. Global competition and automation have reduced the number of manufacturing jobs, and employers in our post-industrial society are increasingly seeking a workforce with more advanced skills

For many students, pursuing a career is the primary motivation for going to college, which is why business – for better or worse – has become the most popular major on college campuses. These students know college graduates earn on average $1 million more over a lifetime than those without the education. It’s also why students over the age of 25, weary of working dead-end jobs and hitting a ceiling without the degree, are coming back to get an education.

Today, seven out of every 10 college students work while going to school, and one in 4 both work full time and attend college full time. Working students gain practical experience, but full-time jobs often deprive students of the leisure required to explore ideas.

“The Economy Goes to College,” a 2015 report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, found that the percentage of American workers with high-skilled wage jobs is larger today than ever before. Over a 40-year period between 1967 and 2007, high-skilled jobs increased from 21 to 35 percent of the workforce while low-skilled jobs declined from 39 to 29 percent. The fastest-growing sectors – business services, finance, health care and education – overwhelmingly require a college-educated workforce.

To serve students and society, better universities might more deliberately provide all students with both transformational experiences and career preparation. Universities and employers might mutually profit from ongoing conversations about competencies to be built into the curriculum and ways to infuse educational outcomes into student work experiences. Students (and their parents) might find a focus on developing character and career preparation highly attractive.

We don’t know what kind of adult Ben Braddock became or the career he pursued, but hopefully he discovered that commencement means lifelong learning – an ongoing education in developing the self and one’s career skills to better serve society.

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Maine Observer: Diamond-class memories beat a trophy Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When I was 10 years old, baseball was my life. When I wasn’t playing some form of it with my youthful contemporaries, I was thinking about it, talking about it or arguing about it with friends, family or strangers too kind and/or slow to escape from a babbling, sports- obsessed pre-adolescent.

However playing baseball all the time didn’t necessarily mean excelling at it. During a recent spring cleaning, I came across a pair of ancient trophies I recognized instantly as the only two such awards I ever received.

Ironically, I did very little to earn either of those dusty keepsakes.

I got the first one as a third-grader, in my initial season of organized baseball. I was on the Hawks, our community’s Little League kingpins. We steamrolled every other team because we had three large, athletic, scary 12-year-olds who could out-hit, out-pitch and out-run just about every other kid in town.

As an undersized first-year player, my contributions consisted of shouting shrill encouragement to teammates, chasing foul balls, coaching first base and warming up pitchers between innings.

The only times I actually played was when our opponents were the Lions, a team so inept that no amount of harm the other two Hawks 9-year-olds and I could do during the first half of the game was so horrific that it couldn’t be undone by the studs alongside us in the starting lineup, or by the far more competent kids who took our places at the start of the fourth inning.

Nearly two decades later, I collected my second athletic memento.

The slow-pitch softball team I was playing for had gotten off to a promising start when, in midseason, I was offered a terrific job in my chosen field of endeavor. The only drawback: Accepting it involved moving 4,000 miles away, and doing so within a week’s time.

I felt guilty about abandoning my teammates, even though they all professed to be far more thrilled about my getting a long-sought-after opportunity than disappointed about losing their leadoff hitter and left-centerfielder.

I shouldn’t have worried. The team, which had triumphed in seven of ten games with me in the lineup, won 21 of 22 after my departure, storming to the league title.

I played on lots of other teams during my extended boyhood, but all my teammates and I got for engaging in healthy exercise while being members of numerous non-winning squads were a whole lot of great memories of having fun with our friends.

Which, in retrospect, was infinitely more meaningful than any tangible award. Because unlike 4-inch metallic batters posing atop tiny slabs of faux marble, treasured recollections can become more vivid with time.

And they don’t require dusting off every three decades or so.

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The humble Farmer: Clothes make the man … or at least make him feel comfortable Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 At the beginning of World War II, my father wore very black, very shiny, very pointed shoes. He might have dressed in the manner of Sonny Corleone, or someone you might call “Dapper Dan.” At the time, Papa had only been in this country for a dozen years, so he was like many other transplanted Swedes in St. George who were most comfortable dressing like they did in Sweden in the 1920s.

A few years ago while traveling, I looked up at a young man who had stepped out of a motel room next to mine. I spoke to him in Swedish.

How did I know he was Swedish?

He had Swede written all over him. You could tell by just one glance at his haircut, his clothes, his shoes. We chatted.

Two weeks ago at a public sale, I saw a man and woman who might have been 50 years of age. I could not place their nationality. They weren’t Americans, but neither were they German, French or Scandinavian. I figured they might be Russians, so I asked the woman where she was born. Yes, they were from what I would call Yugoslavia.

Just their clothes and the way they wore them made them stick out at this sale like a hungry coyote at a chicken picnic. I studied them. Although they were what I would call easygoing, they were, at the same time, aggressive buyers.

She told me they were American citizens. But just becoming a citizen of any country doesn’t mean that you can pass for a native, even if you are consciously trying to do so. When you move to another country, you are uncomfortable leaving who you are behind. Some of us wouldn’t even know how to do it.

Twenty or so years ago my wife, Marsha, and I were squired about Madrid by a handsome young Spanish lawyer who had once attended a Maine summer camp where Marsha had ruled as the queen bee.

It was early evening. We walked into a huge, colorfully illuminated plaza where hundreds of people were eating or drinking at individual tables. Many would remain there in full party mode, talking or singing until sunrise.

Proud of his social prowess, our young friend invited us to watch him pick up some American girls. I asked him how he could tell which ones were Americans. He scanned the hundreds of seated people and quickly pointed, “Those two are Americans.”

Within minutes he seated himself at their table and commenced to charm them with his patter.

Marsha and I talked about this many times in the days and weeks that followed. How did he know they were Americans?

It was their weird foreign threads.

Yes, perhaps they did not sit or hold a glass or even make eye contact in the manner of a young Spanish woman who had been socializing at these tables since she was 15. But clothes give one away immediately.

People are most comfortable in their own culture and their own clothes. When they move, they usually take both with them because it feels right.

Our elderly neighbors also resist change and are likely to dress the way they did 40 years before.

In 1953, old folks who showed up at the St. George High School reunion were dressed like old people. The same was true when you saw them at Grange. At church, my grandmother and the other old women wore tiny hats with veils. They probably wore the same veils when they were fashionable for young folks back in 1910. They would have been uncomfortable dressing in any other way.

Men who have been single for 40 years often have no idea of what they are wearing or the effect it has on other people. Thirty years ago, I once showed up on the doorstep of a lady friend to be greeted with, “Here he is. All dressed up in his rags.” I have never forgotten it.

The top paid women on television squeeze their toes into spiked heels that are guaranteed to destroy their feet. Should we dress for our own personal comfort or to please the social whims of others?

If I were in London, I would feel like a fool rigged out in a bowler hat and clothes that fit me.

I’d even feel uncomfortable in Portland in clothes that fit me.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:

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Commentary: How do you ask someone to stop watching porn in public? Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Have you ever been intruded upon by somebody else’s public porn consumption?

A quiet young woman in one of my classes wanted to know if she could ask a question about college “etiquette” (her term). A sophomore who appeared not to be feeling quite at home on our big campus, I expected her to ask about a roommate squabble or a tricky club membership issue.

Instead, she surprised me with this: “Is it impolite for me to ask the guy who sits in front of me in one of those huge lecture courses to turn off his porn while the teacher’s speaking? It’s, like, really distracting.”

The tone she used was one she’d employ to inquire which fork to begin with at a formal dinner or whether she should fold her napkin between courses. This student watches entire dirty movies on his laptop – during a 9 a.m. class – and “not just clips.” She doesn’t want to move because she’s left-handed and snagged one of the few seats designed for lefties.

Naturally, the university where I teach has a detailed policy against discrimination and harassment explicitly saying that “academic and professional excellence can exist only when each member of our community is assured an atmosphere of safety and mutual respect.” Sexual harassment may include the “public display of pornographic” materials, so my bet is that the kid watching hard-core movies could be disciplined were he brought up on charges.

But my student didn’t want to press charges or even tell the professor. I asked if she’d permit me to act on her behalf but she declined. She wouldn’t name the course. All she wanted, she insisted, was to figure out how to pay attention in class without making the porn-watcher feel “uncomfortable” or making herself seem like “the sex police.”

But watching porn in class raises other questions as well, such as: Why on earth would anybody do that?

Seriously, kid? Do you watch porn in class while you’re having your first cup of coffee and then watch the professor’s lectures at home and take notes by yourself?

I also want to know who’s paying for this kid’s education, because somebody is picking up the bill: either his family, the state or the institution is securing him the right to occupy that seat. Porn Boy is here at the expense of someone else: Another applicant was rejected so that Porn Boy could have the privilege of attending class.

Yes, pornography has existed since the beginning of time. Folks have created dirty pictures since we first drew in the mud with sticks, but one thing I can tell you is that the final exam will not include a matching quiz based on “Virgins from the Planet Pleasure.”

It isn’t just where I teach, either, and it isn’t even just college. In a recent issue of Time magazine, Belinda Luscombe describes a 28-year-old named Gabe Deem as growing up “in an era when what used to be considered X-rated was becoming mainstream,” so that he and his friends watched “explicit videos constantly … even during class on their school-issued laptops.”

I wanted to help my student understand that the problem was not hers – even though she was upset by it.

I remembered that Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, addressed the issue of dealing nicely with smut-watchers at work. As if to illustrate my ignorance, when we searched online for “Miss Manners,” I tripped over a startling number of sites featuring a “Miss Manners” having nothing to do with the distinguished 77-year-old Washington Post columnist. (As my friend Angel once said, “Not all searches for ‘blonde ponies’ get you where you thought you’d get.”)

We did finally locate Judith Martin’s line. It was in response to a woman asking how she might innocuously make her male co-workers stop showing her degrading material. Martin summed it up wonderfully: “Your question is almost like asking for a polite way to let a flasher know that his trousers are open.”

I suggested that my student needed to embrace some outrage, find some humor and use a loud-girl voice to say, “Hey, friend, how about keeping your private tabs closed? Don’t do that here. Thanks.”

Some things transcend etiquette. Watching porn in public is one of them.

]]> 5 Fri, 29 Apr 2016 18:27:56 +0000
Maine Voices: Elephants won’t forget that a long crusade on their behalf began here Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 FALMOUTH — On Sunday in Providence, Rhode Island, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is scheduled to have its last performance using elephants. The 146-year-old tradition, which has been deeply ingrained in our culture, will end.

The past three decades have been a tumultuous time for Feld Entertainment, the parent company for Ringling circuses, as the public learned how circus elephants are trained, kept, used and disposed of. The plight of these great creatures grew into a major issue within the animal protection movement.

As columnist Alex Beam recently wrote in The Boston Globe: “In 1955, Ringling paraded 50 elephants down Manhattan’s Second Avenue on their way to Madison Square Garden. A Ringling circus now has only five elephants, and they often steal into cities at nighttime to avoid animal rights protesters.”

Cruelty to circus elephants involves their submission to painful bullhooks and being chained at the ankle much of their lives, forced and beaten to learn unnatural acts, and eventually sold off to roadside exhibitors when no longer useful – in total, a miserable existence for such a free-roaming, immensely intelligent and social gentle giant.

The end of this tradition brings much joy and relief among many in the animal protection movement. It has been a long, hard battle, one in which Maine was very much a part.

In 2000, animal advocates in Maine, led by Maine Friends of Animals, came together to mount a statewide campaign to support accompanying legislation to ban circuses with elephants from performing in the state. The effort was inspired by the young daughter of the bill’s sponsor, who testified that she thought it was horrible how circus elephants had to live.

The campaign culminated with the Maine House of Representatives voting in favor of the legislation in 2001 by a wide margin of 88-58. It was the first time in the country any such legislation had passed in any state legislative body. Unfortunately, Feld hired lobbyists, and the bill was defeated in the Maine Senate.

We immediately set up another two-year campaign, hired our own lobbyist and, in 2003, won a rules and regulations resolution in the Legislature. Ultimately, it was a disappointing end to four years of work, but on the positive side, the campaign generated an unusual amount of newspaper stories, television coverage and public discussion.

The seeds for change to end an outdated and cruel business model were planted in Maine. Ordinances were passed to ban animal-based circuses from municipalities across the country, including major cities such as Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. Promoting an alternative, we encouraged the public to go to increasingly popular circuses like Cirque du Soleil that are not animal-based.

The end did not come quickly or easily. Feld earned a reputation as being aggressive in handling adversaries and spent millions fighting federal violations of the Animal Welfare Act and litigation from activist groups. This final elephant performance is a huge victory, but it did not come because Feld had a change of heart. It came from the cumulative and increased outcry from activists and the general public.

We did our part in 2000-2004, albeit with much discouragement. However, being discouraged by the lack of measurable results does not mean giving up and going away, which is exactly what the opposition wants.

One can be demoralized by the seeming lack of progress, but remember that all such social movements, such as civil rights, gay rights and medical marijuana use, have similar cycles, and critical mass is needed to fully effect change.

On July 19 and 20, 1848, the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. On Aug. 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting the women the right to vote, was ratified – 72 years later.

Animal advocates should appreciate any success, realizing that progress often occurs through agonizingly small steps. Here in 2016, we see that the seeds we helped plant over a decade ago have germinated into meaningful change. Win each battle to end cruelty, no matter how seemingly insignificant, and animal advocates will win the war to bring animal protection into mainstream thinking.

As in all social movements, activists must continue to strive to achieve their goals, and, most importantly, never doubt that their causes are just. Regardless of some inevitable setbacks, the more we work toward that just goal, the sooner a more humane world will be had by those such as circus elephants.

]]> 2, 30 Apr 2016 11:19:22 +0000
M.D. Harmon: When the Donald calls, people listen Fri, 29 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I got to the office late this morning, as it had snowed and the tires on the old jalopy are as thin as a presidential promise.

(For those of you reading this in Florida, it occasionally snows in Maine in April. Don’t knock it – it keeps the alligators away.)

Anyway, I tore the yellow “Crime Scene” tape away from my door and went in. There was enough of it to nearly cover up the “Dick Richards, P.I.” sign on the glass (it’s the landlord’s idea of a subtle reminder to pay my rent, but he overdid it this time).

Then I noticed I could see my breath inside just as easily as I had outside, and realized the owner had decided to escalate his case for moving up the payment priority scale by cutting off the heat, too.

So, I kept my hat and coat on and decided to open the week’s worth of mail I’d been ignoring on my desk.

I worked my way through ads to buy gold and silver from some guy who always plays the president on TV (and is more convincing than the real one) or put my money into a numbered account in the Bank of the Marianas Trench (somebody’s anticipating a Democratic win in November).

Then there were the pleas for donations to the Save the Plastic Bag Foundation, the Environmental Offense Fund, the Social Justice Warriors Scholarship Pledge Drive (a mind is a terrible thing to waste, all right) and the Campaign to Raise Conservatives’ Taxes (that one came on official IRS stationery, I noticed).

Then I saw the phone’s message light blinking. My last secretary, Sheila, had quit weeks ago, having finally realized that actually being paid wasn’t in her job description.

So I punched the button, to hear an instantly recognizable voice say, “Hey, jerkface, call me now!” So I dialed the number he left and said, “This is Dick. The Donald called for me.”

“OK, jackwagon,” his aide said (the boss likes to keep the branding consistent). “He said to put you right through.”

And then he was on the line: “Dick, first thing is, your nickname is ‘Rotten Richard’ from now on out, got it?”

“Sorry, Donald, my mother already beat you to it. What’s up this time?”

“Did you see Lena Dunham from that show ‘Bimbos’ promised to move to Canada if I won? She said, ‘I know a lot of people say this, but I really will!'”

“It’s called ‘Girls,’ Donald, and I figure your potential support just went up a half-dozen points.”

“Yeah,” he replied, “I already said that. You don’t get endorsements like that every day. But how come nobody ever says they’ll move to Mexico? Is it the wall thing?”

“Yeah, that’s it,” I said. I knew he hadn’t really called to tell me that, he just likes to boast. But you already knew that.

“What’s really on your mind, Donald?”

“Couple of things. One is the new George Washington University Battleground Poll this week that has me within the margin of error against Hillary Clinton, just 3 points apart. How about that, huh?”

“You know I’m not surprised. I said a long time ago you could win this, but I still don’t support you. And your negatives are still higher than hers – even though both of you are in uncharted territory there.”

“Ah, who cares? You’re not going to vote for Hillary, are you?”

“No, it may have snowed here, but I don’t think the freezing temperatures got all the way down to Hades.”

“Hey, Ted Cruz and John Kasich worked out a deal to be my only opponent in their strongest states, but couldn’t hold on to it for two days in a row. All the high negatives mean is that people who don’t like either one of us won’t vote at all, and Republican primary voters have outnumbered Democratic ones by a ton.”

“True dat,” I said, “but more of them voted against you than for you. How are you going to win them and independents over?”

“A lot of the Bernie Sanders socialists are going to stay home, because they’ll think Wall Street has two candidates in the race. And you and I both know Hillary is a terrible campaigner.”

“Uh, I wouldn’t be too quick to jump on that comparison. Are you counting on the FBI email and corruption probes to pay off?”

“I already noted that ‘crooked’ is her first name, and lots of people agree. I’m not going to let up, so whatever the feds do is just gravy.”

“Do you really think you can win?”

“Hey, it’s like the old joke about the two guys being chased by the bear. I don’t have to outrun some ideal candidate like Honest Abe. I just have to outrun Crooked Hillary.”

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

]]> 25, 28 Apr 2016 20:18:14 +0000
Commentary: Override the veto so Maine can benefit from modern solar policy Fri, 29 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 AUGUSTA — When we truly listen to one another, we can accomplish so much.

That’s exactly what happened with the comprehensive solar bill the governor vetoed this week.

Here we were, a group of very different people. We’re not just talking about the differences between Republicans and Democrats, but folks representing a wide range of stakeholders – local businesses, municipalities, utilities and environmentalists – who don’t necessarily see eye to eye. We all came to the table, along with the state official charged with representing the interests of utility ratepayers, and dug into the work before us.

And we listened to each other. We listened to each other as we analyzed complex information, as we engaged in give and take and put our heads together. It was hard work.

The result was truly good policy: a path forward for Maine that increases solar installation tenfold, creates 650 new jobs and protects 300 existing jobs and makes it easier for residents, communities, companies, farms and forestry businesses to take advantage of solar power. The bill, L.D. 1649, does this while lowering electricity bills for all electric customers – an estimated $58 million to $110 million in savings – and mitigating climate change.

This was collaboration in the true Maine spirit. You didn’t see any Washington-style bickering and gridlock here.

Gov. LePage and some of his supporters have opposed the efforts around this new solar policy. But recently, the governor reached out to Rep. Sara Gideon, the Democratic whip. This was in the final stretch of the legislative session, after many months of work by stakeholders and lawmakers, including a significant amendment from two Republicans on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee – Sen. David Woodsome, the co-chairman from North Waterboro, and Rep. Norman Higgins of Dover-Foxcroft – that put a focus on agriculture and increased protections for ratepayers.

We welcomed the opportunity to find common ground with the governor. Putting a modern solar policy in place together would be good for Maine.

Rep. Gideon went into the talks in good faith, willing to listen and knowing that another perspective could further improve our bill. She took his two proposals back to the coalition, which agreed to them.

We were delighted to be on the verge of a deal. But then the governor added a new demand.

This was an additional price cap on contracts – the bill that the Legislature passed already has three different ones to protect ratepayers – that was so radical and would be implemented so rapidly that it would put Maine’s local solar businesses in jeopardy. We investigated whether there was a way to make this work without destroying the integrity of the legislation. There was not.

We draw the line when it comes to Maine jobs – good-paying jobs of the future that provide opportunity for young people. We rejected this final demand, and the governor signed the veto letter in front of Rep. Gideon.

We now ask our colleagues in the Legislature to listen to the constituents who want this veto overridden.

Maine workers will benefit from the new markets the legislation opens up. It creates new opportunities, including grid-scale, community, commercial and industrial and agricultural.

Maine farms and forestry businesses rely heavily on electricity. The bill will help lower costs and even provide a possible additional source of income.

Maine solar businesses need the predictability the legislation provides. Maine’s outdated billing and credit system could be defunct in the near future, plunging businesses into uncertainty and putting the existing 300 solar jobs in danger.

Maine municipalities want to take advantage of new opportunities that will open up. Municipally developed community solar projects are an economic development tool that lowers costs for businesses as well as for residents and the towns and cities themselves.

Maine families will be better able to reap the benefits of solar power because of eased restrictions on participation in community projects. Residents can participate even if they are renters or if their houses are in deep shade. And the growth of good-paying clean energy jobs will create more opportunity for the young people in these families so they can build their lives in our state.

Maine has been lagging for too long in solar. As the only New England state without a comprehensive solar policy, it should be no surprise that we’re in the region’s last place in solar job creation and solar development.

This landmark legislation puts us in a position to lead the nation in 21st-century energy policy. We must embrace this opportunity and make this legislation law.

]]> 9 Thu, 28 Apr 2016 20:32:42 +0000
Maine Voices: University of Southern Maine making strides in all areas of student success Fri, 29 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Last August, at the onset of a new academic year, we wrote in this space about a new era we jointly envisioned for the University of Southern Maine. We declared that this new era would be predicated on civility, respect and inclusiveness; an era where the entire campus community would be committed to working together with a focus on student success.

There are three broad elements to student success: facilitating meaningful connections between our students and faculty and staff; providing a path to graduation that is affordable; and creating an enriched academic experience inside and outside the classroom.

So, as we close in on an end to this academic year, how are we doing in these three areas?

To succeed, students need to feel valued and supported and a part of the campus community. It is well documented that there is a direct correlation between a student’s success and the building of a strong relationship with a professor or adviser. Faculty and staff have always been strongly committed to forming these relationships.

In recent months we have launched several new initiatives to further strengthen student connectedness. These new initiatives include living and learning communities in our residence halls; regular activities for our commuter students; enhanced advising and tutoring, especially for our first-generation college students, and a new student services center, which will enable our students to get the services and support they need in one place.

With respect to providing our students an affordable path to graduation, we are making excellent headway here, too.

While USM’s public tuition rate (which has not increased in five years) is an excellent value, students on tight budgets need more to make their educational dreams come true. So we have begun to offer even better stronger financial aid packages, including, for the first time, significant grants to transfer students. Meanwhile, we have just launched a new plan to raise $50 million in new scholarship over the next five years.

For our students who aspire to graduate school, affordability is also about expediting their path to their final degree. Here, USM has also made great progress through a series of arrangements between our undergraduate and graduate programs that shave a full year off a student’s education.

These types of arrangements – which we have established with the Maine School of Law and our Muskie School of Public Service, as well as our programs in public health, business, nursing, social work, occupational therapy, counseling, leadership and more – save our students time and money and enable them to move more quickly into the workforce.

Finally, with respect to an enriched and meaningful student experience inside and outside the classroom, this is where our existing assets have always been incredibly strong.

Our faculty take tremendous advantage of our unique location in the economic and cultural heart of our state to offer our students wonderful internships and other hands-on learning opportunities with area businesses, health care and human service agencies, arts institutions, cruise ships and professional sports teams.

Such community-based learning opportunities are now available in 45 of our 50 programs of study. And we’re moving ahead to make that 50 of 50, so that every USM student has the opportunity to graduate with an authentic, real-world experience in their chosen field of study.

While our faculty takes students out of the classroom and into the community, we are also expanding opportunities to take our students to other countries. Indeed, thanks to a generous bequest from the estate of Carolla Haglund ’51, paired with a grant from the Maine Economic Improvement Fund, we recently announced that every incoming student to USM’s Honors Program will be guaranteed an international experience within their first two years at USM.

So on all three fronts of student success, USM has made great progress. While there are still challenges ahead, there is a very different feel at USM. Indeed, anyone who has not visited USM in recent months will quickly note a palpable sense of new energy, optimism, high hopes and a renewed belief in the promise of the University of Southern Maine.

The best news of all is that we are just getting started.

]]> 1, 29 Apr 2016 09:57:09 +0000
Dana Milbank: Sanders seeks leverage but will ultimately bow out gracefully Thu, 28 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Eight years ago, I spent an election night in a basement gymnasium in Manhattan, watching Hillary Clinton and her campaign advisers take up residence in a parallel universe.

It was June 3, 2008, and Barack Obama had just clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, making official a victory that had seemed inevitable for months. But Terry McAuliffe, then the campaign chairman and emcee of this Clinton “victory” party, recited a list of Clinton’s primary wins and introduced her as “the next president of the United States.”

Clinton that night didn’t mention her defeat, boasting that she won “more votes than any primary candidate in history.”

Yet four days later, Clinton graciously bowed out of the race. In a concession speech at the National Building Museum in Washington, she said she and her supporters would “do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.” Some in the hall booed – but Clinton delivered her supporters to Obama in November.

Recalling this serene end to the bitter and extended 2008 Democratic primary battle, I’m not inclined to join in all the hand-wringing about the damage Bernie Sanders is doing to Clinton’s chances in November by remaining in the race.

Tempers flared this week after a Sanders supporter, actress Rosario Dawson, mentioned Monica Lewinsky at a campaign rally. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., a Clinton supporter, demanded Sanders tell his supporters “to stop providing aid and comfort to Donald Trump and the Republican Party.”

This, in turn, caused Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver to accuse the Clinton campaign and her supporters of using “language reserved for traitors to our country.”

Why the hysteria? It doesn’t matter if Sanders continues his candidacy until the last votes are cast in June. What matters is that he quits gracefully, and there should be every expectation that he will, for a simple reason: Sanders is not a fool.

Sanders showed no sign of retreat Tuesday, even as Clinton extended her lead by winning the night’s biggest prize, Pennsylvania, as well as Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut; Sanders won only Rhode Island. He gave a defiant speech in which he said he was “taking on the most powerful political organization in America.” The reference to Clinton drew boos.

Sanders sounded like an extortionist Monday when he said that Clinton, if she won the nomination, would have to earn his supporters’ votes by embracing single-payer health care, free college tuition and a carbon tax – all things Clinton rejected in her campaign against Sanders. But seconds later, Sanders, prodded by the moderator, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, added a qualifier: “I will do everything in my power to make sure that no Republican gets into the White House in this election cycle.”

That’s the crucial part. Sanders wants to exert maximum leverage to move Clinton toward his populist policies. But he is a practical man, and he certainly doesn’t wish to see a President Trump or President Cruz. This is why there’s no cause for all the fuss over him remaining in the race until he is mathematically eliminated.

Elimination is coming. Even before Clinton padded her lead with Tuesday’s wins, Sanders needed to win 59 percent of remaining delegates, or 71 percent if you include superdelegates. That isn’t going to happen.

Clinton loyalists worry that Clinton will suffer general-election consequences from Sanders’ suggestions that she is unqualified and in Wall Street’s pocket. And Trump has echoed these attacks and said he’d like Sanders “to keep going.”

Still, this doesn’t qualify as ugly campaigning – particularly compared with a Republican race in which candidates have called each other liars and argued about genital size. Or compare it with the Obama-Clinton standoff of 2008 – a much closer contest. At a May 31, 2008, meeting of the Democratic National Committee, the two campaigns clashed with accusations of cheating. There were hecklers, howls and foul language, and extra security had to be called in to keep order. At the time, Clinton aides, sounding much like this year’s Sanders aides, were threatening that Obama “has work to do” to convince Clinton backers to go his way.

But a week later, Clinton was out, and the party was on a path to unity.

And so it will happen this time. Sanders, when he quits the race, can justifiably declare victory in moving the debate – and Clinton – in his direction on his key issues. His campaign has exceeded all expectations, and he isn’t about to jeopardize his movement by handing the presidency to Trump.

Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

]]> 5, 28 Apr 2016 15:41:21 +0000
Commentary: Rather than vilifying Andrew Jackson, note his significant achievements Thu, 28 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 One would think we could celebrate the recognition that Harriet Tubman will be given on future $20 bills without demeaning former President Andrew Jackson as a “genocidal slave owner,” as a recent Huffington Post headline did. And summarizing his legendary tenure as being “known primarily for a brutal genocidal campaign against Native Americans,” as reported in The Washington Post, indicates how far political correctness has skewed our national consciousness.

This dismissive characterization of one of our great presidents is not occurring in a vacuum. Any white person whose ancestry traces to the American South now risks being characterized as having roots based on bigotry and undeserved privilege. Meanwhile, race relations are at their worst point in decades.

Far too many of our most important discussions are being debated without full regard for historical facts. The myth of universal white privilege and universal disadvantage among racial minorities has become a mantra, even though white and minority cultures alike vary greatly in their ethnic and geographic origins, in their experiences in the U.S. and in their educational and financial well-being.

Into this uninformed debate come the libels of “Old Hickory.” Not unlike the recently lionized Alexander Hamilton, Jackson was himself a “brilliant orphan.” A product of the Scots-Irish migration from war-torn Ulster into the Appalachian Mountains, he was born after his father’s death. His mother and brothers died in the Revolutionary War, where he himself became a wounded combat veteran by age 13.

Self-made and aggressive, he found wealth in the wilds of Tennessee and, like other plantation owners such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, owned slaves. Hated by the reigning English American elites, he brought populist, frontier-style democracy to our political system.

Jackson became the very face of the New America, focusing on intense patriotism and the dignity of the common man.

On the battlefield he was unbeatable, not only in the brutal Indian Wars but also in his classic defense of New Orleans during the War of 1812. His defense of the city (in which he welcomed free blacks as soldiers in his army) dealt the British army its most lopsided defeat until the fall of Singapore in 1942.

As president, Jackson ordered the removal of Indian tribes east of the Mississippi to lands west of the river. This approach, backed by a string of presidents, including Jefferson and John Quincy Adams, was a disaster, resulting in the Trail of Tears where thousands died. But was its motivation genocidal? Biographer Robert Remini wrote that Jackson’s intent was to end the increasingly bloody Indian Wars and to protect the Indians from certain annihilation at the hands of an ever-expanding frontier population. Indeed, it would be hard to call someone “genocidal” when years before, after one bloody fight, he brought an orphaned Native American baby from the battlefield to his home in Tennessee and raised him as his son.

Today’s schoolchildren should know that Jackson’s July 1832 veto of a bill renewing the charter of the monopolistic Second National Bank prevented the creation of a permanent aristocracy in our country. Jackson was virulently opposed in this decision by America’s elites. Historian Vernon Louis Parrington called this veto “perhaps the most courageous act in our political history.”

Just as significantly, in November 1832, South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union. Jackson put a strong military force in position, letting it be known that if it attempted secession he would have 50,000 soldiers inside the state within 40 days, with another 50,000 to follow shortly after. Wisely, South Carolina did not call Jackson’s bluff, and civil war was averted for another 28 years.

For eight years Jackson dominated American politics, bringing a coarse but refreshing openness to the country’s governing process. Jefferson called him “a dangerous man.” Quincy Adams termed him a “barbarian.” But as Parrington put it, “he was our first great popular leader … one of our few Presidents whose heart and sympathy … clung to the simple faith that government must deal as justly with the poor as with the rich.”

Mark Twain once commented that “to arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man’s character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours.” By any standard we should respect both Jackson’s and Tubman’s contributions. And our national leaders should put aside their deliberate divisiveness and encourage that we do so.

]]> 20 Wed, 27 Apr 2016 19:52:56 +0000
Maine Voices: Surviving an overdose often turns a life around – and Narcan makes it possible Thu, 28 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Imagine you’re 17, 18 or 19 again. You’re programmed to push the envelope, experiment, rebel. You have to, to find out who you are, what you’re capable of, to leave the nest and be able to make it on your own.

Unfortunately, what you have to experiment with in 21st-century America are drugs and alcohol. The drugs are deadlier than ever before, and they’re everywhere. A lot of it’s pharmaceutical, too, Food and Drug Administration-approved, so why not? Why not try taking a handful of pills at a party, or snort some cocaine or heroin? It’s fun, relaxing, you loosen up, get high or just black out.

Imagine next how it could happen to you, how you could go from partying to panhandling, from being a young man full of promise, a young woman with a world of possibilities before her, to an addict, homeless, shooting up in alleyways and hustling to stay alive.

Use opiates for long enough, maybe even as little as a month or two, and you become dependent on them. If you don’t have them, you feel sick, very sick. You need more and more to get high, but you never achieve the original effect.

Meanwhile, your brain is changing, your dopamine is depleted. Soon you find you’re using not to feel good, but to avoid feeling bad, having no energy, no motivation to do anything and getting sick from withdrawal. You start to crave opiates. You become obsessed with seeking them out, and you use them compulsively. You’re in survival mode, and your brain is telling you that you need opiates to survive.

Now, you’re 21 and you’re addicted. You are taking drugs every day just so you can function at the most basic level. You’ve dropped out of college, your parents have kicked you out, you’re living on your best friend’s couch and washing dishes for $9 an hour to get by.

You buy your usual supply of heroin and inject your usual dose. Only this time it’s purer, more potent, or it’s really fentanyl. You go out. You fall on the floor.

Maybe you’re in the bathroom at home or at work, or even in your favorite coffee shop (two recent overdose deaths occurred at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts). If someone else has to use the bathroom, you’re in luck: 911, sirens, Narcan and a trip to the ER. If no one else is around, you’re out of luck, dead.

Next, picture yourself cold, clammy, blue, your breathing’s shallow, barely audible or non-existent. Someone’s given you a shot in your thigh that you can’t even feel. You wake up abruptly, sick as a dog, shaking, sweating, puking, cramping.

The Narcan has displaced the opiates in your brain. Your whole being is in acute withdrawal, and all you want to do is take another shot of heroin to stop it. But some part of you realizes the awful significance of what has just happened. You are stunned that you’ve overdosed, that you actually died and came back. You lived to tell the tale.

This is a turning point for many, many patients. I see them every week at the Milestone Foundation. They’ve just overdosed, and they want to quit. They are desperate for treatment.

And some of them are lucky. They have insurance or a wealthy family, so they can get treatment. But most of them have no choice but to go back to the streets and the shelters. I always ask, “When you leave here, what will you do?” They often answer, “Try not to die.”

Many of the patients I know in recovery on methadone and Suboxone have overdosed, been revived with Narcan and transformed their lives. They get medical treatment and counseling, they reconnect with their families, find jobs. They want things to be better for their kids. They start to dream again, of going back to school, of owning a house. They work hard toward their goals and achieve them.

They tell me that Suboxone or methadone saved their life, or that I did. But it was none of these things. It was an awakening, an epiphany, an act of grace. They realized the enormity of what happened. They saved their own lives. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to help them.

And Narcan made it possible.

]]> 13, 28 Apr 2016 00:26:53 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Restoring voting rights to ex-offenders: Right action, but odor lingers Wed, 27 Apr 2016 10:00:00 +0000 The Republicans are probably right.

Last week, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, issued an executive order restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 ex-offenders. The sweeping order applies to those who have completed their sentences and any probation or parole.

The Republican Party was unimpressed. William Howell, speaker of the Virginia House, pronounced himself “stunned” by the governor’s action, which he said was designed to deliver November votes to presumed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“It is hard to describe how transparent the governor’s motives are,” said Howell in a written statement. “The singular purpose of Terry McAuliffe’s governorship is to elect Hillary Clinton president of the United States.”

McAuliffe denied all this, but there is every reason to believe he was less than forthright in so doing. The mass incarceration phenomenon is no less real in Virginia than elsewhere in the country, so a disproportionate number of those getting their ballots back will be African American, a group that reliably votes Democratic.

Add to that the fact that McAuliffe is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee who headed up Clinton’s 2008 campaign – and that he is a Clinton friend and fundraiser. With all that in mind, it would be naive to believe he did what he did without thought of the political benefits.

On the other hand, there are also political benefits to denying those ex-felons the right to vote – except that those benefits accrue to the Republican Party. Howell’s statement is unsurprisingly silent on that point.

Pot, meet kettle.

We find ourselves, then, caught between dueling political agendas. And if you didn’t know better, you might not realize something fundamental was at stake, something far more important than the desire of Democrats and the Republican Party to headlock one another in the eternal mud-wrestling match that is politics.

Meaning, of course, the ballot. Without it, you are mute in the great chorus of democracy. You have no way to hold accountable the people who purport to lead you.

Too many Republicans, albeit not all, are appallingly OK with that where ex-felons are concerned. Note Howell’s preferred plan for the restoration of voting rights: Ex-felons, he said piously, “deserve the opportunity to demonstrate they once again deserve their civil rights.”


Beg pardon, but civil rights, by definition, are rights that come with citizenship. They are automatic – you don’t have to “deserve” them – and they should be abridged or denied only upon serious deliberation and only in extreme cases. Getting busted for selling marijuana, or even for committing armed robbery, does not fill the bill.

One is pleased, then, by McAuliffe’s executive order. But that pleasure is tempered by the conviction that he has done the right thing for the wrong reason.

Granted, the right thing done for the wrong reason is still the right thing. But it also suggests a lack of guiding principles, a willingness to flow like water, shaping oneself to the circumstances of the moment.

Who can say where McAuliffe’s loyalties would lie if restoring voting rights carried no political benefit or, for that matter, if it exacted a political cost?

So as much as one is tempted to take the victory and run, one can’t.

As much as one is gratified to see more than 200,000 returning citizens get the chance to reintegrate into society, one is also chagrined by superfluous evidence of political cynicism and opportunism.

This is no profile in courage. This is an act of expedience for which, unfortunately, the only proper response is anatomically impossible.

You cannot applaud while holding your nose.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald. He can be contacted at:

]]> 19 Tue, 26 Apr 2016 19:36:26 +0000
Maine Voices: National monument proposal a historic opportunity for Katahdin region, chamber chief says Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 MILLINOCKET — Many residents and organizations in the Katahdin region support a proposed national monument east of Baxter State Park. This national monument would be created with land donated, along with an endowment to pay for operating expenses, to the American people. It would be the first step toward the creation of a national park and national recreation area on up to 150,000 acres.

This would be a huge benefit to the people of the Katahdin region, as well as the people of Maine and the nation. The national monument could provide important economic benefits to our region at a time when we urgently need positive developments. That is why there is much support for the proposal in the region.

The board of directors of the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously to endorse the proposed national park and national recreation area. The Katahdin Area Chamber represents 140 members in the communities of Millinocket, East Millinocket, Medway, Lincoln, Patten, Sherman, Brownville and the surrounding unorganized townships.

As a third-generation lifelong citizen of Millinocket, with deep roots in the community, I am intimately familiar with the challenges we are facing on a daily basis. The Millinocket mill is now gone for good. The East Millinocket mill has been sold for salvage. The Old Town mill is closed, and the Lincoln mill has filed for bankruptcy. Bucksport has also shut down and is being dismantled; for the first time in 140 years, there are no paper mills in the entire Penobscot River watershed.

Once we had businesses that catered to working folks with good incomes; now we have emergency food pantries and thrift stores. If our homes are selling at all, they are selling for pennies on the dollar. Our property tax rate is high – one of the highest in the state; municipal services are being cut, and our school systems are skeletons of their former selves compared to when Millinocket-area teachers were some of the highest-paid in Maine.

For many, despair has settled in as the situation has gone from bad to worse. Although we will continue to work hard to maintain as many forest products jobs as possible, we also need economic diversification – which a national monument can help provide.

A national monument and eventually a national park would create desperately needed jobs in the region.

Over the past two years, I’ve witnessed a major shift in attitudes about the proposed national park and national recreation area. I support the project because I care so deeply about the future of our communities.

We are surrounded by natural resources that could be used in new ways to create jobs, attract people to the region and help us move forward. I also believe that a national monument and eventually a national park could help shine a spotlight on our proud forest-sector heritage and history.

The proposed national monument is no silver bullet. It is but one piece of a larger puzzle that needs to be assembled. But it is an important piece – for our region and for the state of Maine.

As national parks and monuments have been created over the last 100 years, they have faced initial opposition. Many of our nation’s treasured national parks, monuments and forests were opposed, but then strongly supported once they were established.

An excellent report by the Center for Western Priorities looked closely at places like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier Bay, Redwood National Park and more. Their conclusion is that “in each case, early criticism was eventually overwhelmed by strong public and political support that remains today.” In each case there were opponents who found themselves eventually on the wrong side of history. Visitation, job creation and dollars infused the economies of the local communities and proved them wrong.

That is why the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce has been joined by the Katahdin Area Rotary, the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce, the Bangor City Council, the Maine Innkeepers Association and hundreds of other businesses in northern Maine to support the proposed national park and recreation area.

With the centennial of the National Park Service being celebrated now, in 2016, the step we can take on that path is to support a national monument. Please join the many supporters of the proposed national monument in the Katahdin region and show your support for this addition to the national park system. This is a historic opportunity for the Katahdin region.

]]> 40, 27 Apr 2016 18:22:50 +0000
Greg Kesich: Once again, LePage blames it on immigrants – because it works Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Early in the 15-year run of “American Idol,” commentator Tony Kornheiser asked a crucial question about the show’s host, Ryan Seacrest.

“Is he an idiot?” Kornheiser wondered. “Or is he a genius pretending to be an idiot?”

That’s the same question I have about Paul LePage, and I go back and forth. Right now I’m going with “genius,” as long as we can add “evil” to the title.

LePage’s bizarre rant last weekend at the Republican state convention about hard-to-understand foreign workers is worth a second look.

“You already have restaurants in the summer, if you go on the coast, it’s hard to hear what they’re saying. Do you ever try to say ‘What’s the special of the day?’ to someone from Bulgaria?” LePage said. “And the worst ones if they’re from India. I mean, they’re all lovely people, but it takes ’em … you’re going to have an interpreter.”

On one hand, it’s classic LePage – a mean joke that flouts prissy rules of political correctness. Nothing more than an attempt to amuse a room full of native-born white people by making fun of foreigners, especially those with brown skin. It’s just a joke, his supporters say, get over it.

But it’s important to remember what he was talking about when he made this apparently unscripted detour.

It was the minimum wage.

And if anyone wonders how LePage is going to fight the minimum-wage referendum, which is probably going to be on the November ballot, we just got a preview: The minimum wage is for foreigners, and all it will do is take money out of the pockets of good, hardworking Americans like you and give it to people who can’t even speak our language.

I know, it doesn’t make any sense. Maine is 96.3 percent native-born, so how is the other 3.7 percent going to swallow up a big share of anything?

And besides, Maine’s population is aging quickly. Why would someone who is responsible for the state’s economy take a position that would discourage foreign-born people from coming here to work? Don’t we need them?

But if you have to ask those questions, you haven’t been paying much attention to Gov. LePage. This is how he operates. LePage has been going after immigrants since he came to office, not because Maine has a problem with too much immigration, but because we have so little. There are so few foreign-born people in the state, he can turn them into any scary demon he needs. He has made a career out of beating up on the weak.

Remember his 2014 campaign ad, the one that juxtaposed images of worried-looking white people with scenes of shadowy figures walking across a desert, wading a stream and then standing in what looked like a underground tunnel? The unspoken message was clear: If Mike Michaud gets elected, immigrants will be coming out of Maine sewers to get welfare.

Then LePage followed that up with his oft-repeated false statement that asylum seekers are bringing diseases to Maine.

With no evidence or logic, he repeatedly blamed an uptick in HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and tuberculosis on immigrants, without noting that those blood-borne diseases are spread by the use of dirty hypodermic needles, which are used almost exclusively by good old Mainers. He even accused immigrants of putting us at risk by introducing the “ziki fly,” a bug that exists only in his imagination.

He does it all the time and it works. Instead of holding LePage accountable for Maine’s lousy economy, even people on welfare are blaming welfare for the lack of good jobs.

Raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 is projected to help nearly 160,000 workers, about a quarter of Maine’s workforce, not just the relatively few people who are currently earning the $7.50 minimum. But watch LePage’s rhetoric turn it into a windfall for a few immigrants.

A campaign strategist once told me that he could win a referendum election by telling voters that a measure would help others, but that it’s much better when you can tell voters it would help them directly. And the absolute best is being able to tell people they have to vote your way or someone else will come along and take what’s theirs.

And this has been LePage’s genius, if you want to call it that, since coming to office in 2011. He can always point to the outsider who is taking food off the table of hardworking Maine families, and put himself in the role of their defender.

LePage may find foreigners hard to understand, but some of us are getting better at reading him. And even without his name on the ballot, there is no telling how ugly he will be able to make this campaign.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at:

Twitter: @gregkesich

]]> 27, 27 Apr 2016 13:36:15 +0000
Maine Voices: A few modest proposals for spring cleaning address Portland’s visual pollution Tue, 26 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Maine prides itself on its landscapes and seascapes. We recognize their beauties are intrinsic; lovely, for having been left alone.

The same cannot be said of our cityscapes. They require work, and now’s the time for streets to be swept and porches painted – and maybe, just maybe, it’s time for some larger initiatives.

There’s this pesky little problem, though: Our eyes often don’t see all that’s in need of our attention.

Take Sumner Park up on Munjoy Hill. On a clear day, one can see Mount Washington from the park. What’s impressive is the mass of the mountain. Even at 65 miles’ distance, it looms large, hopefully reminding us that humility’s a virtue.

What’s not impressive is what’s in the foreground. Yes, there’s a trash container by the park entryway. Unfortunately, there’s not another receptacle out by the benches presumably situated for folks to enjoy a sandwich and soda while taking in the view.

Instead, the land drops off there into littered high grasses. Sadly, we humans seem intent on leaving unlovely stuff in lovely places.

No, another Sumner Park trash can wouldn’t be a cure-all, but it would be a start. What else is needed? The total cleanup of an adjacent hillside property that’s filled with broken pallets and choking on unruly vegetation run amok.

Are there means for a communal remedy here? A conversation with a private property owner? Some selective pruning? A homeless crew given wages and a sense of usefulness by helping clean our city’s litter fields?

Perhaps. But let me catalog some other spring cleanup prospects.

Might Oakhurst Dairy find a way to quell the dirt devils that rise from its truck parking lot at the corner of Chestnut and Somerset streets in Bayside? After all, shouldn’t a venerable Maine company whose stated focus is on “being green” find a way to improve its own in-town dirt parking lot?

Might the city also finally bring together the resources needed to get rid of that forest of pilings inside our Ocean Gateway pier? Or is this really the first view of Portland we want to offer the swelling numbers of cruise ship passengers visiting our city?

How about tackling some of the city’s other visual pollution?

Who in their right mind thought attaching 21st-century antennas to the 19th-century Portland Observatory was a good idea? Can you imagine the same being done to the Washington Monument?

And who thought it so all-fired important that, over a Fire Department substation, a communications tower that’s spindly, ugly and taller than that same Portland Observatory should be erected right next door to it?

Arrogance and obliviousness need not rule the day.

In Portland’s case, some of the most egregious offenses against the contours of an otherwise human-scaled town are three high-rises: Portland House and Promenade East condos on Munjoy Hill, and Franklin Towers, across the street from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

All severely mar views of Portland while also walling off notable views from the city. If someone can catalog their redeeming architectural value for me, I’d invite them to try.

Until then, I’d suggest beginning efforts to get all three torn down. Admittedly, we’re talking here about something slightly more ambitious than spring cleaning.

However, a new Franklin Towers surely could offer the same number of public housing units that it now provides and do so without rising above the roofline of the Immaculate Conception cathedral. Is there not something to be said for paying deference to the spiritual?

In the case of the yellow brick wall that is Portland House and the brutalist block that is Promenade East, replacements certainly could be designed that offer greater luxury while better hugging Munjoy Hill and offering better views for everyone.

So let’s consider one last prospect: Making something more of the very pinnacle of our fair city – the blinking sign atop our Time & Temperature Building. Something tells me we can make something more of our town’s crown. I’m imagining a less cryptic, colorful kaleidoscope of art and information that brightens our hearts night and day.

Yes, spring’s the mischief in me, and so I cast these seeds upon the city to see what takes root.


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Charles Lawton: Digital and physical connections are key for rural economy Tue, 26 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Before the Great Recession, policy analysts used to fret about “the two Maines” – one a northern, resource, manufacturing and rural economy, and the other a southern, service and largely urban economy.

On a regular basis, they’d scratch their heads, think hard and hold conferences devoted to finding ways “to spread the prosperity,” to somehow bring whatever was generating growth in southern Maine to northern Maine. While the boundary between north and south was always vague – north of Portland, north of Augusta, north and east of Bangor – the motivation was always similar: Let’s make Maine one.

The recent release of the newest Measures of Growth report from the Maine Economic Growth Council and the Maine Development Foundation led me to revisit the topic of regional divisions while widening the scope. Let’s look for a moment at three regions:

The Boston metropolitan area (five northeastern Massachusetts counties plus Rockingham and Strafford counties in New Hampshire).

The Portland metropolitan area (York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties).

 The rest of Maine.

Viewed from this broader regional perspective, the cascading nature of economic growth is striking. Over the period of recovery since the “official” end of the Great Recession (2010 to 2014 – the latest period for which comparable data are available), total production in private industry grew by 16 percent in the Boston area, 8 percent in the Portland area and 3 percent in the rest of Maine.

Total employment grew by 8 percent in the Boston area, 4 percent in the Portland area and 2 percent in the rest of Maine. Total population grew by 4 percent in the Boston area and 2 percent in the Portland area; in the rest of Maine, it fell by 1 percent.

For individual sectors, the growth rates move up and down, but the same relative pattern holds. For example: Total production in professional and business services grew by 23 percent in the Boston area, 19 percent in the Portland area and 10 percent in the rest of Maine.

Total production in retail trade grew by 14 percent in the Boston area, 9 percent in the Portland area and 4 percent in the rest of Maine.

Only in the government sector did the pattern vary, with growth of 7 percent in the Boston area, 0 percent in the Portland area and 3 percent in the rest of Maine.

Arts, entertainment, recreation and accommodations (the travel industry) was the only sector in which the Portland area and the rest of Maine (both with growth rates of 16 percent) approach the Boston-area rate of 21 percent.

While helpful in clarifying Maine’s position within northern New England (or at least its eastern corridor), these figures seem to present no obvious answers. Instead of the challenge of figuring out how to spread the prosperity around the “two” Maines, we’re now faced with the same problem of spreading the prosperity around three sections of a broader region.

A closer look at one element of the data, however, sheds some light on how a good deal of “spreading around” is already taking place.

The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis distinguishes between earnings by place of work (the location of an employer) and earnings by place of residence (the home of an employee). In 2014, employees who worked in the Boston area but did not live there earned over $14 billion more in that region than residents of the region working elsewhere brought back into the region.

For both the Portland area and the rest of Maine, in contrast, the flow of out-of-region earnings was positive. In 2014, Portland-area residents earned nearly $415 million more elsewhere than nonresidents earned in the Portland area. Much of this income came, undoubtedly, from the Boston area, some from the rest of Maine and some from wherever around the globe Portland-area residents can convince employers to pay them.

Workers in the rest of Maine earned even more outside their home region in 2014 – just over $431 million more than nonresidents earned in the rest of Maine. Unfortunately, this is actually down from $470 million in 2010, probably reflecting a decline in the overall population and a failure to develop the skills needed in other regions.

The point here is that the most important way to “spread prosperity around” is to make it easier for workers to move around, first in the old-fashioned way by driving, second in the digital way by navigating the Internet and, most importantly, by creating more widely available, shorter-term and less-expensive ways for residents of rural Maine to acquire the skills needed to get on either of these highways.

Charles Lawton is chief economist for Planning Decisions, Inc. He can be contacted at:

]]> 4, 26 Apr 2016 18:32:32 +0000
Kathleen Parker: Sanders fails to realize that Southern black votes matter – a lot Tue, 26 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 African-Americans in the South can’t get a break when it comes to voting, as history can’t deny.

After all they’ve endured through slavery, Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, their voices are still treated dismissively by tone-deaf politicians who would ask for their votes.

If you’re thinking Bernie Sanders, you’re partly right.

Earlier this month, having lost massively to Hillary Clinton across the Southeast, Sanders said that the bevy of early Southern primaries “distorts reality.” Soon thereafter, perhaps covering for a lapse in political acumen, he clarified that those early states are the most conservative in the country.

Not really. And not really.

While some segments of the South are undeniably conservative, Dixie is also home to a large and reliably Democratic cohort – African-Americans. Many of the most liberal people serving in today’s Congress were elected by Southerners, especially black ones. Sanders failed to earn their votes in part by treating the South as a lost cause.

Many took Sanders’ remarks as insinuating that the black vote isn’t all that important. Adding to the insult, actor Tim Robbins, a Sanders surrogate, said that Clinton’s win in South Carolina, where more than half of Democratic voters are African-American, was “about as significant” as winning Guam.

Not cool, Mr. Robbins, though you were great in “The Shawshank Redemption.”

The gentleman from Vermont (black population: 1 percent) and the gentleman from Hollywood failed to charm Southern Democratic leaders, who recently responded with a letter condemning Sanders’ remarks. The signatories, including the Democratic Party chairs of South Carolina (an African-American), Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, expressed concern that Sanders’ characterization of the South minimized “the importance of the voices of a core constituency for our party.”

The letter writers also pointed out that some of Sanders’ victories have been in Oklahoma, Utah and Idaho, states that are more conservative than Southern ones.

That black voters would prefer a familiar candidate such as Clinton over someone whose personal experience among African-Americans seems to have been relatively limited, notwithstanding his participation in civil rights demonstrations, is hardly surprising. For decades, the Clintons have worked for issues and protections important to the African-American community.

But the Clintons, too, have been dismissive toward black voters when things didn’t go their way. During the 2008 primaries when it was clear that Barack Obama would trounce Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, Bill Clinton remarked that Jesse Jackson also had won the state in both 1984 and 1988.

No one needs a translator to get Clinton’s meaning. His next hastily drawn sentence – “Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here” – did little to distract from the implication that Obama would win because he was black.

Not cool, Mr. President.

Hillary Clinton got herself into a hot mess in 2008 when she asserted that President Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the Civil Rights Act, which many saw as dismissive of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s legacy. She scrambled to mitigate the damage, but feelings once hurt are hard to mend.

Then again, time works miracles, and all is apparently forgiven. Hillary Clinton has been duly rewarded for her loyalty, patience and sportsmanship. She played nice with Obama, crushing her resentment beneath her sensible shoes and erasing from memory Obama’s condescending “You’re likable enough, Hillary” during a debate.

On the campaign trail, Clinton now tosses rose petals at Obama’s feats, promising to carry on his policies not because she necessarily agrees with them but because it’s politically savvy. For his part, the president has all but endorsed Clinton, returning the favor of her indulgence and her husband’s vigorous support.

The truth is, only Obama could have defeated Clinton for the 2008 nomination, and he probably did win at least partly because he was African-American. The country felt it was time for a black president, and Obama’s message of hope was intoxicating. He was a dazzling diamond in the rough world of partisan politics.

Clinton shares none of Obama’s sparkle, but she has more than paid her dues and African-American voters have rewarded her loyalty. For his part, Sanders not only confirmed African-Americans’ concerns about his disconnect from their daily lives but was also badly mistaken about the South’s distance from reality.

In the South, black votes matter – a lot – and no one has understood this better than the Clintons.

Kathleen Parker is a columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group. She can be contacted at:

]]> 12 Mon, 25 Apr 2016 19:21:21 +0000
Maine Voices: LePage’s ignorance of addiction science worsens health crisis Mon, 25 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I recently attended the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s annual conference in Baltimore, where I listened intently to the nation’s leading physicians, scientists and policymakers speak about innovative developments and strategies to treat the disease of addiction.

Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont gave a rousing speech on the many aggressive measures he has employed to address the heroin crisis in his state, including expanding health insurance coverage and decriminalizing drug use in favor of expanding access to treatment. He also spoke about increasing the availability of naloxone, a life-saving medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.

As a board-certified addiction medicine physician practicing in Portland, the more I heard about the proactive measures being taken around the country to address the terrible epidemic of heroin addiction, the more frustrated I became at the lack of evidence-based action taken by our officials in the state of Maine.

Last week, Gov. LePage vetoed a bill, L.D. 1547, that would have expanded access to naloxone. Naloxone (brand name Narcan) is an opioid antagonist that acts as an antidote to drugs such as heroin, fentanyl and oxycodone. This medication is effective, fast-acting, safe and non-addicting.

The legislation would have allowed pharmacists to dispense naloxone to at-risk individuals and their friends and family members without a prescription. The bill also would have allowed police and firefighters to obtain supplies of naloxone.

Public health experts (such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have called for such measures in an attempt to stop the rising number of Americans whose lives are being cut far too short because of drug overdoses. Last year, this number soared to 272 in Maine.

Literally adding insult to injury, LePage speculated in his veto message that “naloxone does not truly save lives, it merely extends them until the next overdose” and that the medication “produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.”

His statements are not only offensive to those struggling with the disease of addiction, they are also wrong. The medical literature has repeatedly shown that naloxone does, in fact, save lives. Communities that employ overdose prevention programs with naloxone have lower rates of drug overdoses than those that don’t, according to the CDC. Furthermore, many studies show that increased access to naloxone does not result in increased levels of heroin use – in fact, it may actually reduce usage of the drug.

The governor’s statements would seem to indicate that he believes that those who are addicted to drugs will never get better and should be punished by not having access to a life-saving medication.

Would he deprive family members’ access to an epinephrine pen for their loved one who has a severe allergy because it may enable them to irresponsibly eat peanut butter? How about restricting access to insulin for diabetics or chemotherapy to those with lung cancer because it may enable them to continue to eat ice cream or smoke cigarettes? His logic is faulty, and his statements serve only to perpetuate the stigmatization of individuals with addictions as bad people who make bad choices.

I have treated many patients in recovery from the chronic brain disease of addiction who have either experienced an overdose themselves or witnessed one among their friends. Never have I heard that they considered using more drugs because they knew that if they overdosed, they would be rescued later.

Addiction is characterized by impulsivity and the continued use of a substance or behavior despite negative consequences. What I have heard are many heartbreaking stories of promising young individuals who suddenly died, leaving behind distraught parents, friends and sometimes young children.

I have come to accept that many in the public would hold misconceptions about those with addictions. However, I find the continued ignorance of the governor of a state of over 1 million people absolutely inexcusable and irresponsible.

There is no doubt in my mind that LePage’s decision to veto bill L.D. 1547 will needlessly endanger the lives of Mainers. It calls into question his ability to lead our state during a time of unprecedented public health crisis.

As a physician on the front lines, I strongly encourage the governor and other policymakers to educate themselves on the science of addiction ( and to craft informed, evidence-based policies (such as those that expand affordable access to addiction treatment medications such as buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone). Enough is enough.

]]> 80, 25 Apr 2016 11:44:28 +0000
Alan Caron: Maine GOP legislators show stunning hypocrisy on biomass, solar Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Socialists love to subsidize new wind and solar energy projects (that) benefit only a few wealthy investors,” Gov. LePage said recently, in explaining his opposition to the solar bill in the Legislature that would allow more homeowners, small businesses and towns to install solar energy. That was just before he signed a bill that subsidizes two biomass plants owned by wealthy investors from away, to the tune of $13 million of taxpayer money. Who knew LePage was a socialist?

It was a high-definition display of the destructive effect of excessive partisanship on the hope of building a more sustainable Maine economy for the future.

Over the last 10 days, Augusta has produced two illustrations of that destructiveness. The first was a scathing report card on the Maine economy called “Measures of Growth,” which is produced each year by the nonpartisan Maine Development Foundation and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

This year’s version paints a discouraging picture of Maine’s economy in the LePage years. We’re the only state in New England with negative growth. The economic gap between us and the rest of the country is widening. Economic activity is waning, research and development is falling behind, wages are stagnant, poverty and addiction are up and hope is down.

LePage’s response is to travel the state blaming Democrats for blocking his program, whatever that is. With LePage, it’s always someone else’s fault, isn’t it? Even though he’s been in office for six years. Our 10-year-old sometimes makes that kind of argument when he does something wrong, but we don’t let him get away with it. I suspect the voters will do the same this November.

Somehow, Republicans managed last week to add a self-inflicted wound to that damaging report. They blocked a solar bill that would bring hundreds of new, quality jobs to Maine, even while they rushed through another bill bailing out the biomass industry. To do that, they managed to employ both sides of the same argument.

They said that biomass is good, even though it requires subsidies, because it provides great jobs and lowers our reliance on foreign oil and gas. Solar, though, is bad because it requires subsidies, produces great jobs and lowers are reliance on that same outside energy.

Watching that exercise in political illogic reminded me of those Cirque du Soleil performers who tie themselves into small knots so that they can pat their own backs. That stuff always makes my back ache, and so did Republican arguments this week.

This is what happens, folks, when people replace common sense with partisan nonsense. What it ends up producing is nothing but convoluted knots of logic, senseless positions and dumb decisions.

Both biomass and solar require us to pay a little more now to get a big payback in the future. That’s called thinking ahead, planning for the future and building infrastructure that will enable us to grow.

Both questions also raise exactly the same policy questions. Should we subsidize something as taxpayers or ratepayers? Is this a good “investment” for us, or simply an industry that is dying out or shifting, no matter what we do? Does this investment move us toward energy efficiency that will allow us to hold onto more of the $5 billion a year we’re now sending to energy states and the Middle East each year?

Let’s be clear: Support for the people working in the biomass industry is a good idea. Rural Maine needs all the help we can provide to hold on to the shrinking jobs it has and replace the ones lost in the paper industry. That means supporting biomass, wood pellets, biofuels and any other idea with promise, including new year-round recreation and even some version of a larger North Woods park. But it also means supporting solar power.

What happened last week, if it isn’t reversed when the Legislature takes up LePage’s vetoes this Friday, was more than a stunning failure of politics; it was another setback for Republicans trying to maintain control of the Senate next year.

All that we can hope is that between now and Friday, a few more Republicans will see the solar light before it’s too late and have the good sense and courage to override LePage’s expected veto because it’s the right thing for Maine.

Otherwise, I suspect that the “Measures of Growth” report and this solar bill are going to cost Republicans dearly come the fall. And they’ll have nobody to blame but themselves.

Alan Caron owns Caron Communications and is the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” and “Reinventing Maine Government.” He can be contacted at:

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Cynthia Dill: Telling the true story of our nation isn’t ‘political correctness’ Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Making Harriet Tubman the new face of the $20 bill is no more “politically correct” than having Andrew Jackson’s smug mug on it all these years for reasons no history buff can explain. Jackson was opposed to a national bank and against paper money – why does his face best represent it?

“Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill,” Donald Trump said after Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s announcement that Tubman’s portrait will appear on the front of the double sawbuck and the seventh U.S. president’s will be on the back.

Rough for who? All those great Americans who made tons of money off slaves while pretending to fight for the little guy? The therapy establishment would call Trump’s reaction “political projection,” but I digress. Let’s keep our eye on the money.

Two-faced currency will be a powerful and accurate symbol of America’s struggle for a more perfect union. A black face and a white face. Man and woman. Slave and slave owner. What’s the problem?

Trump says he’s not opposed to Tubman; he opposes what he calls “political correctness,” but what really is simply progress on our collective journey as a country toward more freedom and justice. Trump is really opposed to critical thinking that might destabilize the patriarchal power structure to which his followers desperately cling.

“I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic. I would love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can maybe come up with another denomination. Maybe we do the $2 bill or we do another bill. … Yes, I think it’s pure political correctness.”

The $2 bill? We might as well put Tubman on a wooden nickel and go back to the gold standard. It’s only the 21st century.

For decades, Republicans have been on the losing side of practically every major intellectual argument this country has had except one – until now. Gay marriage, abortion rights, the use of torture, background checks on gun purchases, immigration, tax cuts, health care – you name it, the GOP has lost the argument and as a result continues to lose members. The red tent keeps getting smaller.

One thing conservatives have done well is point out the hypocrisy of some on the left who use bullying and other means of censorship to impose their world view. Take, for example, the student protest of Condoleezza Rice speaking at Rutgers because of her involvement in the Iraq war. Not hearing what she has to say was better than hearing it? No. Of course not.

It was President Bush who correctly said in the early ’90s that “the notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land, and although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones.”

Amen. Robust public discourse is what tests ideas and ideology. A battle of wits is the best workout for a democracy. Winning hearts and minds must be the goal of political parties because without a worthy opponent, anybody will get lazy and fat.

Arguing against political correctness was the last worthy arrow conservatives had in their quiver in the battle against liberals who bully in the name of equality – until Trump and other right-wing wackos took over their party. In their world, “anti-establishment” is just another code word for “anti-intellectual.” Dumb is the new black in Trump’s camp, and if they win, we all lose. The anti-establishment left is not much better.

Tubman was born the property of a plantation owner and died an unsung American legend, until now. She escaped slavery and then aided and abetted the escape of others on the Underground Railroad. Born Araminta Ross, she later took the name Harriet and became a spy for the Union Army. She was a nurse in the Civil War and fought for women’s voting rights on top of taking care of her elderly parents and fighting for fair compensation for her life’s work building America. Establishment conservatives applaud her inclusion on U.S. currency for her extraordinary contribution to the country. That she was a gun owner and is replacing a former Democratic folk hero doesn’t hurt, either.

But anti-establishment is now anti-logic, as standing up for moral values is now “PC.”

The anti-establishment wings of both parties are militant, uncompromising and unwilling to see another point of view. These are bullies posing as patriots, but bullying in the name of justice is antithetical to the deeply held American values of free speech and intellectual discourse. The battle of ideas in the bedrock of democracy.

It was a Republican president who first thrust the concept of political correctness into the national political dialogue and raised important issues about the need to balance tolerance and free speech with righteousness and causes, and now it’s a Republican presidential candidate who is putting a stake through the heart of that sound argument.

Jackson was an orphan who fought great battles and rose to be president while amassing great personal wealth from slavery. Tubman was a slave who fought great battles amassing freedom for others. It’s not political correctness or incorrectness to juxtapose the portraits of these two Americans. It’s the true story of this country.

Truth isn’t correct or incorrect, and the historical record matters. Whether it’s money, monuments or portraits on the wall of government institutions, symbolism is the currency of political capital, and there’s enough to go around among all those who have made contributions.

Cynthia Dill is a civil rights lawyer and former state senator. She can be contacted at:

Twitter: dillesquire

]]> 92, 23 Apr 2016 00:03:23 +0000
Maine Observer: This critter’s never met a fence it didn’t like Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It’s spring at last and the start of gardening season. My wife tells a good story about her ex-husband, an animal lover and first-time gardener driven to uncharacteristic violence, tender mercy and, ultimately, hopeless resignation by one of Mother Nature’s most humble creatures.

From childhood J.B. wanted his own garden. He’d grown up in a Massachusetts suburb, so he didn’t get the opportunity until he married and moved into a semirural house in Maine. One spring, he and his new wife prepared a plot of ground behind their house and planted lettuce and other leafy vegetables. J.B. obsessively watered and tended his garden. The plants grew and matured, promising many delicious salads and table greens. Then, one morning, disaster.

Overnight, his beautiful plants had been mowed down.

Devastated, he consulted with a garden-savvy friend who told him the culprit was probably a woodchuck. J.B. moved to action. He bought a roll of chicken wire and constructed a protective fence. This worked for a few days. Protected from harm, the plants quickly grew back. J.B. was pleased; problem solved. Until once again he discovered his garden eaten. He returned to the hardware store and bought an electric fence, which he put in front of the chicken wire.

Confident he’d outwitted the woodchuck, J.B. watered his garden and watched it slowly come back to life. His chewed-up plants sprouted tender new leaves, and again he was hopeful. But his optimism was premature. Despite J.B.’s double-fence barricade, the persistent woodchuck regrouped and attacked once again, climbing over both fences.

The woodchuck had clearly crossed a line. Now it was war. J.B. added another wire fence in front of the electric one. The triple-enclosed garden now looked like a miniature maximum-security prison.

But J.B. knew the war wasn’t going well when one day he watched the woodchuck climb over the first fence, get zapped by the electric fence, and then nonchalantly climb over the third.

His friend told him the only way to stop this critter was to shoot it. Reluctant but desperate, J.B. borrowed his friend’s rifle and stationed himself in the upstairs bathroom window, feeling a little like Elmer Fudd. He’d never shot a gun before. When the varmint appeared, he pulled the trigger. The woodchuck yelped and ran squealing into the woods. J.B. raced outside and followed the blood spoor to the animal’s den.

He felt terrible. He loved animals, and now he’d shot one. Despairing, he jumped into his car and raced to the grocery store, returning home with a head of lettuce.

Daily, for weeks, he placed a few leaves of lettuce or cabbage at the opening of the wounded woodchuck’s den. In the meantime, J.B.’s garden grew back.

You can probably guess the ending to this story. Healed, well-fed and happy – thanks to J.B.’s guilt-ridden and animal-loving ministrations – the ungrateful woodchuck made a final assault on the regrown garden, decimating it.

Defeated, J.B. abandoned his lifelong desire for a vegetable garden. Victorious, the woodchuck was never seen again.


]]> 2 Fri, 22 Apr 2016 18:37:40 +0000
Maine Voices: Honoring the Irish fight for freedom Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 AUBURN — Americans love a good revolution. We had one ourselves back in 1776, when we backed our request for the British government to leave with force of arms.

Our revolution being successful, and fundamentally good, inspired other revolutions: the French Revolution and the United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798. The French Revolution was a success; the United Irishmen Rebellion was not. But the Eireannach (Irish) kept rebelling until they got it right.

Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916. The Rising, like most Irish rebellions against British rule, was an immediate failure. The response of the British government to that Rising, however, demonstrated the nature of the “union” between Britain and Ireland, and galvanized resistance to British rule, ultimately resulting in today’s Republic of Ireland.

The Rising consisted of less than 2,000 Irish men and women, armed with rifles, if at all. They seized government installations in Baile Atha Cliath (Dublin), most notably the General Post Office, as well as strategic points to ensure access to the surrounding countryside.

That the Rising would be a failure was almost a foregone conclusion: It was not a popular uprising in any sense of the word, and the shipment of smuggled arms on which its success depended, purchased in Germany and financed from America, was intercepted by the British Navy just days before. But the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen Army, under the direction of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, gave it a go anyway.

Britain can be excused its harsh response to the Rising; in 1916 World War I was raging on the Continent, and it was not going well for the British. The last thing they needed was a rebellion “at home.”

Downtown Baile Atha Cliath was reduced to rubble with the better part of a week of British cannon fire, and 16 of the leaders of the Rising were executed after they had surrendered.

Britain’s reaction was understandable, but unwise. The British response made it clear that the “union” between Ireland and Great Britain was a farce; that Britain really regarded Ireland as a colony. Sentiment against British rule crystalized, resulting in a “war” that ended with the creation of Saorstat Eireann – the Free State of Ireland. But why does it matter?

Since 1916 the Republic of Ireland has evolved from a mere aspiration into the world’s best national citizen. Ireland is ranked No. 1 in the Good Country Index. Ireland’s independence has paid the world dividends.

The Good Country Index is a measure of a country’s contribution not only to its own citizens, but to the world at large. The categories measured are comprehensive: science and technology, culture, international peace and security, world order, planet and climate, prosperity and equality, and health and well-being. Each country’s contributions are calculated relative to the country’s size.

What does Ireland contribute to the world to warrant such a lofty ranking? Ireland is ranked first in prosperity and equality, fourth in world order, seventh in culture and ninth in health and well-being.

Four of seven scores are in the top 10. Under prosperity and equality, for instance, Ireland scores very well compared with other countries for open trading, market size and foreign direct investment outflows; and scores well in U.N. volunteers abroad and development assistance.

Under world order, Ireland scores very well in charity giving, refugees generated, population growth and U.N. treaties signed. Under culture, Ireland scores highly in creative goods exported and creative services exported (mostly their music, I think!); and has a positive UNESCO dues in arrears score. Compared to other countries, Ireland contributes more than its share to the well-being of people beyond their border.

It is a distinguishing characteristic of their nation, and one that all who are of Irish heritage may be proud. The ability to decide to do good in the world began with the Easter 1916 Rising.

On Sunday, the Maine Irish Heritage Center will be continuing a series of thoughtful events to mark the anniversary of the Easter Rising. We hope that you will join us, and learn just a little bit more of what it means to be “Irish.”


]]> 10, 22 Apr 2016 20:00:55 +0000
Maine Voices: Urge Maine delegation to back tighter federal control over toxic substances Sat, 23 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SCARBOROUGH — The recent Portland Press Herald story on a proposal to limit the use of synthetic pesticides in South Portland (“Plan to ban pesticides: A model or a mistake?” Page A1, April 11) offers an overview of the differing perspectives on proposed pesticide ordinances. It also raises the significant issue of how both federal and state agencies are not doing enough to ensure that commonly used lawn and garden products are safe.

But this is just one part of a larger and much more ominous problem: the failure over decades of state and federal government to protect citizens from the short- and long-term risks of exposure to literally thousands of hazardous chemicals all around us.

Toxicity to children (and, to a greater extent, dogs) from lawn and garden pesticides is just one aspect of the danger. Tons of widely used chemicals such as glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup and nitrogen-rich fertilizers eventually reach Casco Bay, contributing to overgrowth of green algae and mass die-offs of phytoplankton, which can adversely affect fish and shellfish. Growing public concern surrounds the use of neonicitinoid pesticides, which are closely linked with declining numbers of bees and other pollinating insects, bats and other species further up the food chain.

The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, a federal law conceded to have been largely shaped by the chemical industry, has been a toothless, sleeping watchdog. During the past 40 years, it is estimated that over 80,000 synthetic chemicals have entered into widespread use in industry, household products, personal care items and myriad other uses; newer chemicals are being added at an estimated rate of over 700 per year. Only a small fraction have been adequately tested and even fewer are adequately targeted by meaningful restrictions or outright bans on their use.

Alarmingly, widespread testing of umbilical cord blood reveals that is possible to detect over 200 synthetically produced chemicals and their breakdown products. In adults, evidence of these same chemicals can also be found in blood, urine, semen and other body fluids.

A wide spectrum of problems are correlated with exposure to synthesized chemical toxins, as well as to many other substances long recognized as harmful, such as lead, mercury, arsenic, dioxin and radon. Many public health experts attribute the rising incidence of various cancers, infertility, birth defects, lowered IQ, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and behavior and learning problems to increasing exposure to the toxins that are everywhere in our environment.

Children are more vulnerable to any type of poisoning than are adults, because of their higher metabolism and respiratory rate, greater surface-to-mass ratio and the tendency for toddlers to crawl across lawns and floors, mouthing whatever they think looks interesting. There are also critical periods in utero and during early childhood when their developing nervous systems are more vulnerable to disruptive influences.

Moreover, their longer lifespan means children may continue to accumulate toxic chemicals in their bodies far longer than adults. The presence of even small amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals at critical periods of embryonic development may contribute to birth defects in male genitals, and possibly later infertility or other reproductive problems. Such long-term adverse effects escape detection during short-term testing.

Research has shown a clear connection between exposure to some of these hormone-mimicking chemicals and marked obesity in rats raised on the same diet as matched controls, suggesting that environmental toxins – as well as more obvious factors such as overeating and inactivity – may be insidious contributors to the current national epidemic of obesity.

Bills intended to replace the Toxic Substances Control Act have been put forward in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, with conference committees now working to integrate these into a meaningful bipartisan consensus. Inevitably, chemical industry lobbyists will be attempting to weaken or dilute any final version. It is thus a crucial time for our congressional delegation to hear from Maine citizens and environmental groups seeking stronger protective action.

When writing or calling the offices of our senators and representatives, urge their support for provisions in any new chemical legislation that will:

Compel the Environmental Protection Agency to identify and test significant numbers of “chemicals of high concern” (chemicals proven to cause serious health concerns) within a specific time frame.

Ensure that the language of any new legislation does not effectively invalidate safeguards already in place in Maine and other states with progressive toxic control laws (such as the Kid-Safe Product Act, banning bisphenol-A in child products).


]]> 4 Fri, 22 Apr 2016 20:05:30 +0000
Port City Post: Madonna, Prince remain my celebrity soul mates Sat, 23 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I believe we all have secret celebrity soul mates. We keep our celebrity soul mates in the periphery of our everyday experiences as a reference and a comparison as we grow older. We check our earthly bodies against theirs while accepting that we are not even in the same universe.

We choose them based on their age, gender, appearance, birthplace and life circumstances. It’s not a random selection. When they succeed, we take note. When they misstep, we notice.

I have two celebrity soul mates. Prince is one. Madonna is the other.

Prince, Madonna and I are the same age. We are summer babies, U.S. Bicentennial-year high school graduates and rock stars.

OK, we are not all rock stars.

At 5-foot-4, Madonna is the tallest among us. We are Gemini, Cancer and Leo: In June, July and August 1958, respectively, we arrived on the scene.

Prince and Madonna are my touchstone celebrities, lingering in the place in my mind where I keep track of my progress or regress – my missed opportunities and my missed calamities.

The attachment to these two superstars is not romantic. I don’t want to sleep with Madonna or Prince. I want to be Madonna or Prince. And if I can’t be Madonna or Prince (I think that ship has sailed, Jolene), I would like to simply hang out with them.

I’m drawn to their raw edges and imperfections. Becoming Madonna and becoming Prince was not easy for them. As working-class kids, they stuck to a path until the path stuck to them. Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone became “Madonna” and Prince Rogers Nelson became “Prince.”

I’m drawn to their swagger, their courage and mostly to the way they move. After all, I was the first person on my block to learn the Twist. I made it my business to learn the Pony, the Dirty Dog and the Swim. I think if they could just see me move, they would hire me as a backup dancer. As the young Billy Elliott said, “I just want to dance!”

Prince, Madonna and I each became parents around the same time. I learned today that Prince’s child, Boy, did not survive. He was born Oct. 23, 1996, and died a week later from a rare condition called Pfeiffer syndrome. Madonna’s first child, Lourdes, was born Oct. 14, 1996. I learned today that she is now a model. My own daughter was born in May 1997. I learned today that she needs more money deposited into her savings account.

When we love someone’s life’s work, we naturally look for connections to him or her. If our connection is our age, then we would like to believe that we listened to the same music as adolescents and hung the same posters over our beds. We bet that we loved the same Monkee.

We fantasize: What if? What if I had moved to New York in my early 20s? What if I had been named “Queen Ann McGowan” or “St. Ann McGowan”?

Dinner conversation would be easy with my celeb soul mates. I would mock them for some of their creative choices. I hated the movie “Truth or Dare” and wish Madonna would drop the British accent, but I admire her bravery and her biceps.

Today, I learned that we lost Prince. Fans young and old posted their reactions, tributes and love for this small man with the giant talent. But unlike when David Bowie passed, I felt protective of him in a way that was more like a friend than a celebrity.

The circumstances of his death are still not known as I finish this post. As sad as it is to lose him, I’m hoping that the flu got the best of him and that he was not hiding an addiction.

We want the best for our celebrity soul mates, even in their death.

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

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Commentary: Why go sky diving when you can stay home and read? Sat, 23 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 STORRS, Conn. — “When was the last time you deliberately challenged yourself for fun?” Greta Scheibel asked me. “You know, some kind of dynamic experience that made your heart race?”

Greta, a former student who after a stint in the Peace Corps continued to live in Africa and work for local organizations, brought this up over coffee at a breakfast joint near UConn, where I’m a professor. She’s moved back to the U.S. and came to visit.

Young, athletic, fit and cheerful, Greta had recently been sky diving but was explaining her disappointment at the fact that she wasn’t up there in the air plunging toward the earth on her own. Her joy was diminished because a professional – there to ensure that her parachute opened and thus preventing her from hitting the ground headfirst like a dart – was strapped to her person. She’d have preferred to jump solo, fully engulfed by the sensation of freedom and flight.

Because Greta was in my class 10 years ago, she knows me well enough to understand I don’t go into the air surrounded by anything smaller than a Boeing 757.

But she wanted to know whether I’d ever tried some vaguely scary activity just to get my blood racing.

Her question did what very little else in life ever does: It shut me up.

I can speak about almost any topic without pausing for a breath, but I sat there staring silently for long enough that a friendly server came over to ask me if everything was all right.

Like many other young people, including my stepsons and their wives, my nieces and nephews and whole teams of former students, Greta is drawn to extreme sports and risky adventures. These folks surf, parasail, perform in Ironman competitions and run marathons. They do these as regularly and with as little concern as I have running to the grocery store.

Of course, they literally run marathons, while I most certainly do not literally run to the grocery store. I don’t run anywhere. I try not to move quickly under any circumstances. The mighty sloth is my spirit animal.

The last time my heart rate spiked, however, was at the grocery store. Progresso soup rang up as three for $5 instead of two for $4. It was a thrill. I’m not even kidding.

Instead of ice climbing, windsurfing, mountain biking, bungee jumping and hang gliding, I am discount shopping, car washing, paper grading, column writing, dinner making and Netflix watching. None of my daily activities includes the word “stunt.”

I would not, for example, be a good catch for a group called the “International Downhill Federation.” This is a real organization. Shockingly enough, it has nothing to do with politics, economics or romance, which are the only words I’ve ever associated with the word “downhill.” Instead, to compete in International Downhill Federation luge competitions on ice-covered tracks, members “are required to ride in the supine (lying back) position with their feet forward” and “no mechanical braking devices are allowed.”

I don’t need to lie down to make my heart pound any more. My heart pounds when I need to update my computer’s operating system; my vital signs spike when my GPS stops working. I could be a contender if there were international competitions for angst, epistemological externalism or chronic foot pain but I doubt these groups exist (though the T-shirts would be great).

My secret attraction is to interior wildernesses.

A literary critic once argued that men’s adventure books turned into women’s gothic novels because female characters were only permitted to explore intimate worlds, given their circumstances and domestic lives. It wasn’t mountain ranges they needed to conquer, but the family secrets hidden in attics and basements. Careening through the labyrinthine complexities of arranged marriages, hidden pasts, multiple childbirths and straits and narrows of family life provided all the tension a body could stand.

Much like the heroines in such novels, I can sit for hours, immobile yet bungee jumping emotionally. It isn’t necessarily healthy but it is exhausting.

Yet it’s the daring feats of those with more physical courage and endurance that delight me – even if they don’t inspire me to imitation.

Risks can lead to joy. I cheer for Greta, and I happily keep both feet on the ground.


]]> 1, 23 Apr 2016 00:06:03 +0000
M.D. Harmon: ‘1984’ becomes instruction manual for left’s ‘crybullies’ Fri, 22 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Thoughtcrime: The criminal offense of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question officially mandated views. “Crimespeak” is the act of voicing such thoughts. – From George Orwell’s “1984”

Conservatives always saw Orwell’s dystopian novel, based on his Spanish Civil War experience with the twin tyrannies of fascism and communism, as a warning to free societies.

So why are some on the left starting to use it as an instruction manual?

A few examples:

I wrote recently about the nearly two dozen Democratic state attorneys general (and one independent) who vowed to take on “climate change deniers” (as if anyone denies that the climate changes, and always has), with a special focus on energy companies and their allegedly “fraudulent claims.”

As University of Tennessee law professor Glenn H. Reynolds wrote in an April 11 USA Today column, “Federal law makes it a felony ‘for two or more persons to agree together to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same).'”

He pointedly notes that the law provides grounds for civil action against those who join such conspiracies.

On April 8, Bloomberg News columnist Megan McArdle called such acts “prosecutorial power run amok.” She said the officials “spent a lot of time talking about global warming, and how bad it was, and how much they disliked fossil fuel companies. They threw the word ‘fraud’ around a lot. But the more they talked about it, the more it became clear that what they meant by ‘fraud’ was ‘advocating for policies that the attorneys general disagreed with.'”

Then the AG for the U.S. Virgin Islands decided to subpoena the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank that holds a contrarian view on the issue, for its “communications regarding climate change” over a full decade.

McArdle noted, “Prosecutors know the damage they can do even when they don’t have a leg to stand on. The threat of investigation can coerce settlements even in weak cases.”

However, “In a liberal democracy, every guerrilla tactic your side invents will eventually be used against you. Imagine a coalition of Republican attorneys general announcing an investigation of companies that have threatened state boycotts over gay-rights issues, and you may get a sense of why this is not such a good precedent to set.”

Regarding such boycotts, some may wonder why progressives want to subject women and even young girls to having a fully equipped male use their public restrooms.

But it is a matter of progressive opinion that “gender identity” is entirely up to the person involved, and not agreeing to that is thoughtcrime of the highest level.

Of course, it isn’t mentioned that many of the corporations (such as Coca-Cola and PayPal) threatening to boycott North Carolina because of that state’s “bathroom bill” do substantial business in Middle Eastern nations where gays are persecuted and even put to death.

Is such profitable hypocrisy newsworthy? I guess not.

How brainwashed are some of us? In a scary video, the Family Policy Institute of Washington asked college students on the University of Washington campus what they would tell the interviewer (a youngish white man of average height) if he said he was a 6-foot-5-inch Chinese woman.

None of the half-dozen students interviewed dared to contest the claim, despite its obvious ridiculousness.

Moving on, let’s consider a new development involving campus “crybullies,” students (and some faculty and administrators) who find the slightest disagreeable word or action enough to send them to their “safe spaces” to recover.

On many campuses, administrators have threatened disciplinary action against people who’ve written Donald Trump’s name in chalk on sidewalks.

Garnering the Twitter hashtag #thechalkening, the practice has been spreading. Any parent knows that some kids will double down on behavior that upsets adults, so ignoring this would have been the wise move, right?

Nope. Bowing to the complaints of special snowflakes who felt “oppressed” by this mild prank, many campuses have been in an uproar over it, even calling for “banning chalk” at some schools.

Why parents would waste tens of thousands of dollars sending their offspring to such places is beyond me.

As Dr. Ben Carson said in the 2013 speech opposing political correctness that propelled him to national prominence, “PC is dangerous. In this country, one of the founding principles was freedom of thought and freedom of expression. (Political correctness) puts a muzzle on people.”

Want to get past concerns about thoughtcrime? It’s easy. Just believe and say what you think is right, and if someone doesn’t like it, tell them you’re not about to be muzzled.

That’s what freedom is all about.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

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Commentary: Paris agreement addresses hazards of climate change, George Mitchell says Fri, 22 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Earlier this month, a broad coalition of groups, representing millions of Americans, filed amici curiae – or “friend of the court” – briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

Businesses, members of Congress, major tech companies, public health organizations, faith leaders, government officials, utilities, attorneys general, environmental groups and mayors from all over America are so interested in these legal proceedings because they know what’s at stake. By setting the first ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants and encouraging the development of cleaner, safer energy, the EPA’s plan will help protect our economy and public health from the dangerous impacts of climate change. That’s why I was one of those amicus brief signers.

The modern Clean Air Act is set forth in major amendments that were enacted in 1970 and 1990. My predecessor in the Senate, Ed Muskie, was the principal author of the 1970 amendments, and I was deeply involved in the 1990 amendments.

Each change reflected the growing body of scientific knowledge about the number and nature of the many pollutants that exist in an industrialized society. The combination of changes demonstrate a clear intention by Congress to establish a comprehensive program to deal with known pollutants and to grant to the EPA the authority to regulate others as they became known.

To accomplish this objective, the act mandates the promulgation of national air quality standards, and the development by the states to implement those standards, for those pollutants determined to be harmful to the public health and welfare (these pollutants are described as “criteria pollutants”). It also authorizes the EPA to establish more strict regulation for more hazardous air pollutants. And it authorizes the EPA to regulate all other harmful air pollutants that are not criteria pollutants or hazardous air pollutants.

In light of these provisions, the argument of opponents to the EPA’s action – that the EPA lacks authority for its plan – appears to be unsustainable.

Climate change directly affects our way of life, the global economy and the well-being and safety of disadvantaged communities. Twenty-five years ago, I was serving as majority leader of the U.S. Senate, and I headed the Senate’s Environmental Pollution Subcommittee. I wrote a book about the potentially devastating effects of climate change if we failed to act. To a disturbing degree, what I feared would happen has happened.

On Friday, heads of state will gather at the United Nations headquarters in New York to sign the Paris agreement, a groundbreaking plan that will encourage every member of the U.N. to work together to address the hazards of climate change.

It’s essential that they do so, for their citizens’ health and safety.

Climate change causes more frequent and more extreme severe weather events, asthma attacks, disruptions in food and supplies, more vector-borne diseases and sea-level rise that, if allowed to continue unchecked, will displace millions of people. Nearly all of the world’s countries have agreed to take action that will help us meet our obligation to safeguard all our children and grandchildren and leave them a better future. The Paris agreement commits all countries to do their part.

This international coordination was led by the U.S., and the example we set with the Clean Power Plan. The EPA’s plan will encourage American innovation, thereby helping our economy transition to cleaner and safer sources of energy that protect healthy communities. It’s our country’s best available tool to address climate change and will help us meet our commitments. Hopefully, the Paris agreement will give confidence to Americans that other countries will be held to the same standards as we are – and that we won’t be acting alone.

As Senate majority leader, I worked with Republicans and Democrats to hammer out bipartisan improvements to the Clean Air Act that have kept millions of Americans safe from dirty air. The vast majority of Americans support the Clean Power Plan, which makes it easy for our leaders to represent public opinion and the public interest.

The recent legal filings remind me of what empowers our democracy – diverse Americans coming together to drive policy that makes us stronger, healthier and better as a nation. That’s why I call on everyone to remain engaged in this process. Help your community transition to healthier energy, and tell your representative to support the Clean Power Plan and the Paris agreement.

We all know what’s at stake.

]]> 5, 22 Apr 2016 18:46:51 +0000
Maine Voices: Clean Water Rule will help sustain fishermen’s livelihoods Fri, 22 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SACO — You can learn a lot about the life cycle of certain types of fish by spending your time on the seas. As a small-scale, sustainable hook fisherman, I’ve certainly been able to learn a lot over my years. But more recently, some of what I’ve learned has me really scared.

Take herring, a fish that we see a lot of around New England. They make their way to inland rivers in the spring in order to spawn before heading offshore. The problem is, New England has had a huge problem with pollution in our waterways – and herring, at a very young age, are particularly susceptible to pollution. And what they take in could very well end up on your dinner plate.

The same is true with Atlantic salmon, a fish that was harvested here by Native Americans and Pilgrims hundreds of years ago – and that now is on the verge of extinction. Some will say that’s because of climate change, and that’s probably partially true. What they are missing is water quality.


This is becoming a very serious problem, in large part because there’s confusion about what the government role can be in protecting water quality. A recent federal rule, the Clean Water Rule, aims to clarify that, and clear the way for cleaner water that can help small outfits like mine thrive. But some people are claiming instead that it will be a burden on business and the economy.

When I hear those arguments from people, I wonder what their motivations are. As a quintessential small-business owner, I can tell you that the burden comes when clean water isn’t protected, not when it is.

In the past, we’ve had to deal with several spills in nearby harbors, usually because of runoff from different industrial applications. That’s had an effect on certain ecosystems here. Without further protections, we will see increased debris and different chains of chemicals polluting our waters. We don’t know where they go, but we know they will have an impact, both on fish and the people who eat them.

Our livelihoods depend on clean water and a protected environment. So when the waterways we rely on become heavily polluted, that puts all of us at risk.


Yes, some of what we’re seeing in our waterways is because of climate change, but some of it is also a result of what we’re doing to our waterways. One thing is for sure: The water ecosystems that fishermen like me rely on are changing, and that’s going to make it a lot harder for us to make a living.

It’s obvious for industries like fishing or agriculture, which have water as a major input in their products, but this is an economy-wide issue.

For me, polling from the American Sustainable Business Council sums it up: Eighty percent of small-business owners – Democrats, Republicans and independents – said they supported rules to protect upstream headwaters, as the Clean Water Rule would do. That’s because the same poll found that most – 71 percent – said clean water protections helped economic growth, not hurt it.

Which is why I don’t understand people who are arguing that this rule will be bad for the economy. What benefits could they possibly be looking for that are worth dumping the rest of the economy down the drain? There is a delicate balance in our state’s economy between clean water and fishermen. When this balance is disrupted, everyone suffers.

It’s time for opponents of this rule to ask themselves these questions: Why do they oppose protecting a resource that people – and the economy – can’t survive without? What would it mean if we further damage this vital resource?

Then I hope they will agree that we need to do our best to protect it. The Clean Water Rule is an important next step. Without it, our economy could enter a major dry spell.

]]> 2 Mon, 25 Apr 2016 10:39:35 +0000
Maine Voices: Priceless lessons learned when USM classrooms include community Thu, 21 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When University of Southern Maine junior Katie Zema showed up for her first training with Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine, she figured the training would largely involve the ins and outs of working the phone lines. As a crisis and support line advocate, she knew that she would be on call for roughly four eight-hour shifts per month. What she didn’t yet know was the way in which this work would change her life.

At Sexual Assault Response Services, Katie began to understand the realities of the sex trafficking industry in southern Maine. Working the phones, she learned a lot about how to engage with callers. She began to learn what it meant to really listen.

She became comfortable with silence, as the person on the other end of the line figured out what to say next. This phone work also made Katie think a lot about language: How could she respectfully express empathy? How could she speak in ways that empowered the individuals on the other end of the line?

This attention to language at the level of discourse inspired Katie to think more deeply about her volunteer work with Sexual Assault Response Services, and to ask how this work fit into a larger project underway in Maine.

How do advocates, themselves, think about sex work and sex trafficking? How do they talk about these issues, with each other and the public? How do we talk about sex, coercion and commerce in southern Maine? And, importantly, Katie began to ask: Can we shape this discourse so that we no longer rely on the same tired tropes of victimhood and criminality?

Answering these questions became the focus of Katie’s studies at USM, where she is double-majoring in sociology and women and gender studies. Ultimately, this exploration became the foundation of her undergraduate honors thesis. On Friday, she will present her work at Thinking Matters, USM’s annual student research symposium.

She won’t be alone. This year, we have 150 undergraduate and graduate students presenting independent, innovative and creative work. Many of these students have stories that are just like Katie’s: Each of them pursued an interest and worked with a faculty mentor to create work that matters.

What microbes are you inadvertently growing in your kitchen sink? How does autobiographical storytelling benefit people with early-stage Alzheimer’s? How can we better support Maine veterans in our public education and health care systems? What health care practices best serve transgender older adults? These are just a few of the real-world questions that our students are tackling at Thinking Matters.

Research shows that to foster long-term student success, we need to give students opportunities to use their learning in real-world contexts. At USM, our students learn with their communities in ways that shape their careers and broaden their horizons.

Importantly, they have the support of dedicated faculty members, who work with students to shepherd projects from that initial spark of an idea through to its completion and public presentation. Sharing our work with our colleagues and the Portland-area community is central to our mission as Maine’s metropolitan university.

As chair of Thinking Matters and director of the Honors Program at USM, I am proud to showcase all the deeply engaged, rigorous and applied learning experiences we offer our students.

As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman pointed out in his 2014 op-ed “It takes a mentor,” there are two things that colleges and universities can do to help ensure their graduates become “engaged employees on fulfilling career tracks”: Place real value upon student-faculty mentoring relationships, and provide students with opportunities to use their classroom-based learning in internships and community service projects.

The Gallup poll Friedman cites has profound implications: Where you get your college education doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you get it.

At the University of Southern Maine, our students have the best of both worlds. The individual attention of caring professors here rivals that of any elite small liberal arts colleges (I know, because I attended one). And the hands-on, real-world learning opportunities that we have here in the Portland area match – and even surpass – those opportunities available at other comprehensive research universities.

Join us Friday and you’ll see what I mean: At USM, thinking matters.

]]> 0, 20 Apr 2016 22:25:12 +0000
Commentary: Vulnerable patients will benefit from move to Portland Community Health Center, councilors say Thu, 21 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In 2007, the city of Portland and its partners applied for and received a federal grant to establish a federally qualified health center to serve the Portland area, now known as the Portland Community Health Center. The vision at that time was to create a high-performing, patient-centered, not-for-profit entity that could provide affordable services to vulnerable populations, including those whose care was being provided through the city’s Public Health Division at the India Street clinic.

In 2012, the city successfully transitioned the PCHC from a service model that functioned as part of the city’s public health services to a stand-alone not-for-profit with a patient-majority board of directors. And in 2014, the city successfully transitioned the Health Care for the Homeless program to the community health center. Today, they provide high-quality, comprehensive care to almost 7,000 patients at five different sites.

City Manager Jon Jennings’ proposed budget asks us to act now, in partnership with the PCHC, and transition the services currently offered at the India Street clinic to ensure continued access to comprehensive care for those in our community who need it most. This transition is the final piece of the original 2007 vision.

By making the proposed transition now, the city would be taking steps to ensure the long-term sustainability of these services. By acting now to develop and implement a fully vetted and monitored patient-centered transition plan, the city can make sure that patients are not left without critically needed health care, or forced to transition under emergency conditions in reaction to decisions outside of the city’s control.

We believe this is a good government decision. Making this decision now and implementing it within the eight-month transition process will allow the city to ensure all members of our community have ongoing access to fully integrated health care services.

The Portland Community Health Center will offer the same services and quality standard of care to patients transitioning from India Street that it already offers its existing patients. As a federally qualified health center, the PCHC receives a significantly higher reimbursement rate for its comprehensive services, which include transportation, case management, free or no-cost medications and integrated mental health care services.

Because they are federally funded, they are required to provide primary, preventive and supportive health services at times and locations that are convenient to its target populations, and they must ensure that no patient is denied services because of an inability to pay. And patients who transition from India Street to the PCHC will be eligible to serve on its governing board.

We believe that a carefully monitored transition of direct care services to the Portland Community Health Center is the well-timed next step for the city. It makes sense for the patients and caregivers at India Street to be concerned about the impacts of this transfer and the challenge of new relationships at an unfamiliar location. To ease this anxiety, city staff will partner with PCHC staff to manage the transition of patients according to a detailed transition plan that will minimize disruptions in service.

And while access to quality community-based care is the driving factor for this decision, transitioning the city away from the direct care service model to the more sustainably funded, consumer-controlled, federally qualified model makes sense insofar as it may allow the city to focus on many other safety net priorities.

This partnership between the city and the PCHC will not dissolve as soon as these services have been transferred. The City Council’s Health and Human Services Committee will remain involved at the policy level to monitor implementation of the programmatic details. The city and its staff will remain invested in the ongoing relationship with the community health center to ensure that the transition continues to provide our most vulnerable citizens with the care they need and deserve.

The Portland Community Health Center was created to deliver these services. It is mission-driven and funded to do so. State and federal sources have made it clear that these centers are to be the primary recipients of funding to provide these services. Based on what we know about the options available, it does not makes sense to hold vulnerable patients captive to the city-run service model and jeopardize access to more sustainable comprehensive care out of a fear of change.

We look forward to continuing this conversation at the Finance Committee’s public hearing Thursday night and at the City Council’s public hearing May 2.

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Dana Milbank: Disorder in the highest court due to irresponsible Senate Thu, 21 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Visiting justices from Canada’s high court sat in on Monday’s immigration arguments before the Supreme Court – and after their 90-minute education in the current state of American jurisprudence, our neighbors to the north would be forgiven if they had fantasies of building a border wall of their own.

The Senate’s refusal to confirm a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia has left the U.S. high court evenly split and increasingly paralyzed. As the justices heard arguments about President Obama’s executive actions on illegal immigration, there were really only two possible results: chaos or more chaos.

A divided Congress couldn’t agree on legislation to deal with the 11 million immigrants here illegally. Obama tried to do something on his own – use his executive authority to defer deportation of parents of children who are American citizens – and the rift grew deeper.

Texas, supported by 25 other states, most led by Republican governors, sued. Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia filed briefs on the other side. The Republican-led U.S. House sued as well, but 186 members of the House and 39 senators (virtually the entire Democratic caucus) filed opposing briefs.

Now the Supreme Court must rule on Obama’s DAPA policy (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). But with no expectation that the justices can reach agreement on the merits of the case, that leaves two options:

Chief Justice John Roberts joins the liberals in dismissing the case on a technicality – that Texas doesn’t have standing in court. This would leave it unclear whether DAPA is legal and set off chaos in the country as other entities try to sue and the administration tries to enforce its legally ambiguous policy.

Or, the justices come to a 4-4 tie on the merits of the case, and even greater confusion ensues. An appellate ruling invalidating the law stands, at least in part of the country. Cases will be brought in other circuits, probably causing different views of the law to arise in different parts of the country.

“With either of these two possibilities, you have chaos about whether DAPA is legal or not,” says Neal Katyal, a Supreme Court litigator who filed a brief in the case from former immigration officials supporting the administration.

The current confusion, following the 4-4 split in a key labor case, is another sign that the high court is struggling to function. The justices have granted only three cases since Scalia died, according to a list kept by the court, a figure Supreme Court watchers say is extraordinarily low. “When they do reach decision, it is often a very narrow ruling,” Katyal tells me.

On Monday, the justices seemed split down the middle, both on the merits of the case and the question of standing. Roberts said Texas’ position, that it would lose money because it would have to issue driver’s licenses to those aided by Obama’s order, was “the classic case for standing,” and he accused the administration of putting Texas in a “Catch-22.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, too, said that the policy was being done “backwards” and that the decision should be “a legislative, not an executive, act.”

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor ridiculed the claim that the executive orders would have a negative economic impact on Texas. “Those nearly 11 million unauthorized aliens are here in the shadows – they are affecting the economy whether we want to or not,” she said. “If Congress really wanted not to have an economic impact, it would allot the amount of money necessary to deport them, but it hasn’t.”

Nobody disputed that the administration has the discretion to defer action on certain illegal immigrants. What disturbed lawyers for the House and for Texas was that those who receive such “deferred action” are, under long-standing federal law, eligible to apply for authorization to work based on economic need, even though they don’t have legal status.

Erin Murphy, representing the House, said flatly that “Congress has passed a statute that says if you are living in this country without legal authority, you cannot work.”

But Donald Verrilli, the administration’s solicitor general, pointed out that, even without DAPA, there are millions of people who don’t have legal status but legally work in the U.S. They’d be out of luck – and out of work – under the law as the House Republican majority would like it to be interpreted.

Tossing millions from their jobs would cause chaos. But chaos is what you get when you sideline the Supreme Court.

Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

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Leonard Pitts: American justice on trial in inmate’s pursuit of new sentence Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Friday is a day of reckoning for Duane Buck.

That’s the day the Supreme Court will determine whether to hear his appeal for a new sentencing hearing. Buck is on death row in Texas.

It is important to emphasize that he is not seeking a new trial. There’s no question of Buck’s guilt in the 1995 shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend, Debra Gardner, her friend, Kenneth Butler, and Buck’s stepsister, Phyllis Taylor. No, all he’s asking is to be re-sentenced for the crime.

There is, you see, a law in Texas that says you can’t be sentenced to death unless a jury finds that you represent a future danger, i.e., that you are likely to hurt someone else if left alive. In Buck’s case, psychologist Walter Quijano, a supposed expert testifying for the defense, no less, told jurors Buck represented just such a danger.

Because he is black.

If any of this rings a bell, it’s because I wrote about the case three years ago. If you read that column, you may recall that one of the researchers on whose writings Quijano based his testimony says his work supports no such conclusion. Indeed, Quijano’s claim was so outrageous that even Buck’s surviving victim and one of his prosecutors think he should get a new hearing. In 2000, Sen. John Cornyn, who was then Texas’ attorney general, conceded the state was wrong in allowing race to be used as a factor in sentencing.

Quijano had given similar testimony in six cases. The other five defendants, all black or Hispanic, got new hearings. Buck was denied, based on a flimsy legalism, namely that the offending testimony came not on “cross,” but on direct examination. In other words, it was first elicited by the defense.

People keep telling me I’m wrong to believe the justice system is riddled with racial bias. They tell me the system has nothing against people of color, and that it is only evidence of their own native criminality that such people are stopped, frisked, arrested, tried and incarcerated in wildly disproportionate numbers. People keep promising me the system is just.

And I keep being sickened by stories like this. I keep finding studies like the 2012 report by University of Maryland criminology professor Raymond Paternoster, which said that at the time of Buck’s sentencing, the local DA was three times more likely to seek death for a black defendant than for a white one.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that these predictions of future dangerousness are not exactly unerring. Texas Defender Services, a nonprofit law firm specializing in capital cases, studied the records of 155 death row inmates and found that only 5 percent went on to commit assaults serious enough to warrant more than a Band-Aid. In a place where you can get written up for saving a seat in the cafeteria or having too many postage stamps, Buck has a clean disciplinary record dating back to 1998.

So Quijano’s testimony was not only racist, but also – pardon the redundancy – wrong.

Look, I don’t like the death penalty. If you know me, you already know that. But even if I did, I would want to be sure this severest of sanctions was imposed fairly. Plainly, it is not.

And the fact that it is not cannot help but undermine the credibility of the entire system. If we countenance bias at this extremity, what confidence can anyone have in the system’s fairness at any level, down to and including parking tickets?

The racism here is not subtle. To the contrary, it is neon. To deny Buck a new sentencing hearing untainted by bizarre suppositions about the future danger he poses because of his skin color would shred even the pretense of equality before the law. So let us hope the court does what it should.

Because, yes, Friday is a day of reckoning for Duane Buck. But it’s a day of reckoning for justice, too.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald. He can be contacted at:

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Commentary: Founding Fathers erred in putting two heads together Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WASHINGTON — Three years ago, I was giving tours of the nation’s Capitol. It was a fantastic job that allowed me to become immersed in the nation’s history. But there was one part of the tour that always struck me as odd: the fresco painting on the ceiling of the Capitol dome.

“The Apotheosis of Washington,” by Constantino Brumidi, hovers 180 feet above the bustling tour groups in the Capitol rotunda and depicts the afterlife of George Washington. Here, the nation’s first president sits in the heavens, surrounded by Roman gods as he prepares to become a deity himself. The ” Apotheosis” represents a fascinating facet of the American psyche: the yearning for a national monarchic symbol. Despite the government’s foundational republican ideals, Americans still prop up their presidents – both past and modern – as icons of central power.

“The Apotheosis” isn’t the only instance of Washington being given the deity treatment. In 1832, artist Horatio Greenough sculpted a half-naked version of Washington for the Capitol rotunda, based on the long-lost statue in the Temple of Zeus. Despite Washington’s perfectly sculpted washboard abs, the statue was so massive that it threatened to break through the Capitol’s floors, and Congress eventually decided to hand the statue over to the Smithsonian. I imagine that if George Washington – the man who forcefully rebuffed any form of public praise – had seen either piece, he would have been violently repulsed.

Today, pundits often deride presidential power as tyrannical or kinglike, but a number of the Founding Fathers explicitly argued that the Constitution was designed to afford a limited monarchy. Early on, Congress decided that “Mr. President” was the only suitable title for Washington, but in the rush to throw off the yokes of monarchy, the framers saddled the president with two competing roles: the head of state and the head of government.

Most other developed countries made a distinction between the two roles as they democratized. Queen Elizabeth, for example, is the proud and nonpartisan symbol of England; Prime Minister David Cameron regularly gets waist-deep into political controversy.

The British monarchs represent their government as figureheads and serve as hosts to visiting national leaders, upholding a tradition that remains above politics. Meanwhile, the prime minister is the government official who is held accountable to the people – he’s much more powerful, but far less dignified. American presidents must carefully combine these two roles, and during state visits, the line between being polite to foreign diplomats and making political statements when foreign policy demands is quite narrow.

But even if we do not have a solidified “head of state” position in our government, Americans do find a way to fill in the hole of the nation’s culture: They use the Founding Fathers. Just as the monarchy in Britain is a tradition of the nation still worthy of reverence, for many Americans the wise men who joined together and penned the Declaration of Independence are beyond reproach.

It results in a sort of hyperbolic mythos, depicting these ordinary men as gods or, more frequently, individuals gathered together in divine providence. Yet we rarely mention that George Washington was generally pretty lousy at unifying his own Cabinet, letting a massive political divide get between him and his closest allies. When Thomas Jefferson left his administration, Washington never forgave him and declined to speak to him again. Jefferson, on the other hand, would have never gotten back in touch with his rival John Adams if it weren’t for Abigail Adams forcing the two to reconcile.

That sounds more petty and human than godlike to me. But is depicting our nation’s presidents as iconic symbols problematic? I understand the tendency to glorify American history: In the absence of an alternative, the presidency has to become the de facto cultural symbol for the nation. For better or worse, political culture is often just as important to a nation as its political institutions.

]]> 2 Tue, 19 Apr 2016 18:32:16 +0000
Maine Voices: Ranked-choice voting should be everyone’s choice to better democracy Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 TOPSHAM — I represented Topsham in the Maine Legislature as a Republican from 2006 to 2012. I worked hard to earn a reputation as a lawmaker who was thoughtful and informed.

When I first heard about ranked-choice voting, I was skeptical: At first glance, it appeared to be an initiative that would give Democrats and unenrolled candidates a permanent advantage. Despite my initial doubts, I agreed to meet and talk with a friend and colleague about ranked-choice voting to learn more about this issue.

I am glad that I did, and that I gave this issue the same thoughtful consideration that I had given to bills in the Legislature. What I found was that ranked-choice voting is a nonpartisan initiative with deep roots in Maine that has been proven to put more power in the hands of voters, to help forge consensus and to restore greater civility to politics.

I will be voting “yes” in support of the citizen initiative for ranked-choice voting this November.

If my support of ranked-choice voting surprises you, given my initial reaction to it, I don’t blame you. A year ago, I would have been surprised, too. In our highly polarized political environment, it would have been easy to dismiss this proposal based on my initial assumptions.

Constitutional scholars from the University of Maine Law School have looked at this citizen initiative and determined that it is simply a different method of counting ballots that captures truer voter preferences to ensure that, as former state Sen. Peter Mills put it, “voters get what they want.”

Ranked-choice voting is simple for voters. You have the opportunity to rank as few or as many candidates as you like in order of your individual preference.

If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice rankings, then the candidate with fewest first-choice rankings is eliminated, and voters who liked that candidate the best have their vote instantly counted for their second choice. This process repeats until the field of candidates is narrowed and the candidate with the broadest support wins.

This process works just like actual runoff elections, without requiring voters to return to the polls to vote in another expensive, drawn-out election. Your vote counts for the candidate you ranked second only if your first choice has been eliminated.

What got me excited, though, wasn’t the simplicity of the ballot, or how inexpensive this process would be, but the opportunity to improve the political climate in Augusta.

Decades of rancor and scorched-earth politics have created an environment where it is difficult to get anything accomplished. Ranked-choice voting encourages candidates to reach beyond their bases to earn first-, second- and, in crowded races, third-choice rankings.

Negative campaigning can backfire when voters have the power to express their opinions about more than one candidate. Candidates who continue to bash their opponents in hopes of victory through mudslinging will find it difficult to earn second- and third-choice rankings.

Perhaps most importantly, candidates who can successfully build broader coalitions necessary to win ranked-choice voting elections are more likely to be leaders who can build governing coalitions to better pass common sense legislation for the people of Maine.

It’s far past time for Augusta to get back to doing the people’s business. Elections should have consequences, and the winners of elections should have the backing of broader coalitions of voters so that they can enact the people’s will.

I invite Maine citizens to join the nonpartisan coalition of current and former elected officials, and business, labor, faith and civic leaders backing ranked-choice voting, including Republicans like myself, state Sen. Roger Katz and former state Sen. Peter Mills; independents like former state Sen. Dick Woodbury and state Treasurer Terry Hayes; and Democrats like former House Speakers John Richardson, Hannah Pingree and Mike Saxl.

This is something we can do now to improve the political process. Let’s make a change for the better this November and support ranked-choice voting.

— Special to the Press Herald

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Kathleen Parker: North Carolina proves itself a valley of ignorance by passing ‘bathroom bill’ Tue, 19 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It’s been a long while since South Carolina could look down upon its neighbor to the north.

Thanks to North Carolina’s anti-LGBT legislation (HB2), also referred to as the “bathroom bill,” the state effectively has begun redefining itself from its long-popular characterization as a “valley of humility between two mountains of conceit” (South Carolina and Virginia).

The new law, which ludicrously requires transgender people to use the restroom consistent with the sex on their birth certificates, has liberated South Carolina from its persistent place as the brunt of late-night jokes. Remarking on the law, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said her state doesn’t have “that problem.” Brava.

The law in question was hurriedly passed last month and signed by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory in response to what one state official called a restroom free-for-all, referring to sudden hysteria over the possibility of transgender individuals using the “wrong” restroom. How would anyone know? Will officials now post monitors at public restrooms to check birth certificates and human bladder-evacuation portals?

This would be riotously funny if it weren’t so patently discriminatory.

Many bad deeds go unpunished, but not this one. The economic fallout from the law already is being felt and the price of not doing business is about to go up. Bruce Springsteen recently canceled a concert in Greensboro, and Deutsche Bank has frozen a planned 250-job expansion in the state. But the real showdown was last weekend, at the semiannual High Point furniture market – the largest in the nation and the state’s biggest economic event.

A recent study by Duke University placed the annual economic impact of the High Point market at $5.38 billion. The furnishings industry also generates more than 600,000 visitor days to the state each year and accounts for 37,000 jobs.

If there were a Darwin Award for states, North Carolina would win hands-down. The full impact of HB2 on the market won’t be known until organizers have had a chance to gather and analyze attendance data – which will take about two weeks – but the High Point Market Authority predicted that hundreds or thousands of the 75,000 retailers and designers who annually attend the market wouldn’t be visiting this year because of HB2, which, come to think of it, sounds appropriately like a disease.

Many of those who planned to attend expressed deep reservations amid likely plans to go to the relatively new Las Vegas furniture market next go-round. Among them was Don Wooters, interior designer and co-owner of Easton’s Dwelling and Design, who told me before the High Point market that he felt guilt about going to North Carolina.

“I feel like a traitor going to High Point, putting capitalism before human rights,” he said. “I don’t feel good about that and I know it’s wrong.”

Wooters wasn’t only baffled by the bigotry of the legislation but also by whatever generates the fear behind it.

“Why do people feel they have to be afraid? It’s a big sign of how uneducated America is.”

Another local designer, Jamie Merida, owner of Bountiful, told me he decided to go if only to make his case to vendors that they have six months to straighten out this mess or he, too, will be off to Las Vegas next time.

Although North Carolina has been noted in recent years for its increasingly hard-right politics, it is still shocking that a state that boasts several of the nation’s top colleges and universities and is home to the famed Research Triangle, could codify what is so plainly a discriminatory law. In comments last week, McCrory, feeling the pressure, softened his defense of the law but stopped short of opposing the provision on bathroom use by transgender people.

As in all other times when bigotry raises its hideous head, better angels will prevail. Either the courts will overturn the law or the state will come to its senses, if only for economic reasons.

As to that valley of humility? In 1900, when Mary Oates Spratt Van Landingham, a cultural leader and author, first conjured the image in a speech, she was bemoaning her state’s then-lesser “native literature.”

“Could it be that being located between Virginia and South Carolina, our people for so long have been furnished such conspicuous illustrations of self-appreciation that they have, by contrast, learned modesty and silence?” she said. “Where there are mountains of conceit, there are apt to be valleys of humility.”

Today, those mountains have good reason for self-appreciation by comparison. And North Carolina has proved itself a valley of ignorance, whose legislators and governor could use a moment of silence to consider their ill-conceived conceit.

Kathleen Parker is a columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group. She can be contacted at:

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Maine Voices: South Portland’s proposal to ban synthetic pesticides too heavy-handed Tue, 19 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — A big change could soon take place in your backyard if South Portland’s proposed ordinance on pesticides is finalized.

The City Council has proposed an ordinance that would mandate the use of “organic-only” pest and weed control on private and public property – banning all other pesticide use. While the intent – to be more environmentally friendly – is a good one, the real issue is that a total ban takes away all of the useful tools we all count on to protect our families and private property.

By using the precautionary principle – the idea that a product should be treated as dangerous until scientifically proven safe – as the foundation for the ordinance’s creation, the council is setting a precedent that allows them to ban anything they want, all in the name of sustainability. This is dangerous because it disregards the rights of the private citizen and the expertise of any business being targeted.

I live in South Portland. I’ve been in the turf industry for more than 25 years, and I practice integrated pest management every day.

I work with my customers to educate them about integrated pest management approaches they should practice and to help them find the right program for their property and expectations. They are always asking “Why?” and “What for?” so the educational component of our service is very important. This should be the foundation of the ordinance – not an all-out ban.

Integrated pest management is a comprehensive approach that allows the use of all tools available to identify, monitor and control a problem. As a professional, I was trained to build a turf grass system from the soil up with cultural programs, and then apply fertilizers and pesticides on top as needed – not the other way around.

The ordinance does not leave us with products that work on problems like grubs or with an opportunity to take an integrated approach.

We use products in moderation and only as needed. The products we use and those available to consumers at hardware and home stores are low-risk and can be applied safely.

I believe that both organic and synthetic products have a place in our yards and parks, but we need to be able to choose both types of products for our pest problems. Right now, there are a minimal number of organic products that are somewhat effective at controlling disease-carrying insects and invasive and allergy-causing weeds. There are absolutely none that control the grubs and insects that cause severe damage to turf.

Without synthetic pesticides, there’s no effective way to protect your lawn. Grub problems lead to animals tearing up lawns to eat the grubs, which means a ruined lawn and a lot of money spent to repair it.

In all my years of business, I haven’t seen an organic-only program work the way people think it will. Our neighboring town of Scarborough tried an all-organic approach, and it experienced a major grub issue, forcing it to go back to synthetics to take care of it. It also saw a nearly threefold increase in the budget to maintain city property.

Like all South Portlanders, I want a healthy and safe environment for my family and my neighbors. It’s important we move forward together and amend the proposed ordinance. There are more common-sense first steps we can put in place before we consider an all-out ban on the products we count on to protect our personal and shared property. One example is education on proper use.

Another could be to set up a city-owned property as an organics-only test plot for three to five years. While this is going on, educate the public regarding the products and cultural programs being used, their associated costs and why there is a difference in turf quality. At the end of the trial, hold an assessment workshop, which can be then be used as the foundation for a more common-sense ordinance and one that includes an integrated pest management approach.

Please let the South Portland City Council know that this ordinance is the wrong way to address the issue at hand.

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Charles Lawton: Economic impact studies fail to show the whole picture Tue, 19 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Over the years, in my day job, I have done scores of economic impact studies – what my colleague Charlie Colgan used to call “big-number studies.”

From proposed closures of Loring Air Force Base and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, to the potato, blueberry, dairy, tourism and biotechnology industries, to research institutions and colleges and universities, I have attempted to describe and quantify the networks of commercial relationships between specific enterprises or industries and the larger Maine economy. I have attempted to put numbers to the stories of employee and vendor supply-chain spending that is gained or lost with the opening or closing of any of these entities.

This column is not intended to tout any current or former client, but to address the inadequacy of purely commercial relationships in explaining the economic impact of a given industry. During the just-completed legislative session, our elected officials decided to commit funds to help biomass electricity generators – not so much for the electricity but to help preserve the broader “forest” industry.

In a similar fashion, they approved – or at least advanced to the voters – a bond issue to support research and development. What jobs will this research create beyond those of the scientists conducting it and those in the specific vendors supplying the materials the research labs need? What businesses will it create? Who knows?

This is where economic impact moves beyond the loggers who supply a paper mill and the chemical companies that supply a research lab. It’s where public support for the public good moves beyond empirical evidence of payrolls made and vendors paid to faith in the long-term benefits of human curiosity and ingenuity. This is where the story of economic impact moves from big numbers to big dreams.

I recently had the good fortune to have an extended conversation with a nurse employed by the Eastern Maine Medical Center Cancer Care Center. He spoke passionately about his bimonthly meetings with researchers from The Jackson Laboratory – not from Bar Harbor, but from The Jackson Laboratory Center for Genomic Medicine in Connecticut.

He spoke of the joy both he and his research colleagues felt when they saw the diminished pain and extended lives of patients for whom targeted, individualized medicine worked. Invariably, he said, the researchers told him that the big-data-analytics, hunting-for-the-needle-in-a-haystack nature of their work took on more meaning and became more urgent when they saw – firsthand – its human consequences.

This same “big dream” story applies to the decisions facing our Senate and congressional representatives in Washington, particularly in regard to funding for the National Institutes of Health, where research has similarly unpredictable outcomes but enormous fiscal consequences. Consider the fact that in Maine in 2014, public medical spending amounted to over $5.4 billion – more than $2.9 billion for Medicare and over $2.4 billion for Medicaid and other public health benefits.

These amounts are growing rapidly and, at the state level, have become an increasingly contentious element of the biennial budget battles in Augusta.

Over the past decade, this public health care spending in Maine has increased by 54 percent. During the same period, wage and salary income has increased at less than half that rate (25 percent). In 2014, public spending on health care as a share of Maine’s total wage and salary income stood at 21 percent, far above the national average of 14.9 percent. By this metric, Maine ranked sixth in the nation – behind only West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky and New Mexico.

In short, whatever their impact on improving Maine health outcomes may prove to be, it is clear that state R&D-funded technology research projects and federal NIH-funded research projects have the potential to save both state and federal taxpayers tens, even hundreds, of millions of dollars in the long term.

And these savings, whatever they may prove to be, are virtually impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy. But they are nonetheless far bigger and far more important than whatever big number can be derived from the purely commercial economic relationships that flow from research and development activities.

Charles Lawton is chief economist for Planning Decisions, Inc. He can be contacted at:

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