Maine Beacon

Subscribe to Maine Beacon feed
Updated: 47 min 18 sec ago

Study: Responsive stakeholder board will ensure Question 1 funds go to home care

2 hours 56 min ago

Should Question 1 pass in November, the proposed universal home care program will be implemented and overseen by a board of stakeholders. According to a new report published by Caring Across Generations, a national caregiving advocacy campaign supporting the ballot initiative, such a structure is rooted in a “long-standing American” tradition of giving citizens control over the social services that directly impact their communities.

“This idea, this trust fund board, is not imported,” said Professor Eileen Boris, a labor researcher and one of the report’s principle authors. “It’s American.”

Question 1 seeks to guarantee seniors and Mainers with disabilities will have access to home care services needed to stay in their homes. According to the text of the proposed policy, the home care board must consist of three representatives of personal home care agencies, three home care providers, and three recipients of the services or their family members. The structure is meant to ensure that the money raised by a 3.8% tax on personal income over $128,400 a year is used as intended and that the services delivered are responsive to the needs of Maine seniors and other home care recipients.

As the report details, the home care board would resemble other trust fund boards that are common throughout the country, including wage and housing boards that bring together stakeholders to negotiate an issue the affects their community — such as a low minimum wage or a scarcity of affordable housing — and advise state policymakers.

“Essentially, you have workers, employers, and community members on this [board],” Boris explained. “In the language of the bill, [the board is] charged with maximizing access to in-home and community services and to ensure the improvement of the wages and benefits and working conditions for the people doing the home care, and to set reimburse rates for the services.”

She stressed that Maine residents would elect members to the board, allowing those most impacted by the services to oversee the program, as well as advise the state legislature on home care policy.

Other boards in Maine use a similar structure, including the Potato Board, which is elected from among potato growers and administers funds from the state’s potato tax.

Referring to the history of trust fund boards, which date back to the early 20th century, Boris said Americans now live in a moment where the progressive, representative systems that emerged during the New Deal have become overburdened with regulations and rules that counter their original intent.

“The states offer an opportunity for democratic revival,” she said, “for people to say, in the state of Maine, we care about our people who need care. It’s something we believe in as a community, and it’s a burden we’re all going to have.”

(Photo via Flickr)

Maine GOP calls NY Times a ‘fake news outlet’ over Moody discrimination allegation

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 13:34

After the New York Times reported that Maine gubernatorial candidate and businessman Shawn Moody was accused of sexual discrimination against one of his former employees, the Maine Republican Party lashed out at the well-respected newspaper, calling it “America’s most famous fake news outlet.”

The report, published Friday morning, centers on a sexual discrimination complaint filed in 2006 with the Maine Human Rights Commission. In the complaint, Jill Hayward alleges that Moody fired her from a management position at the Moody’s Collision Center in Biddeford after she gave birth to her son.

Hayward told the Times:

[I]n November 2005 Mr. Moody visited her apartment while she was on maternity leave after having an emergency C-section. As she sat feeding a bottle to her weeks-old son, her boss explained to her that she could no longer work for him because of her duties as a mother, she said.

“My heart was in my throat or at my feet, and I’m looking at him like, ‘You’re kidding,’” said Ms. Hayward, who remembered ‘bawling’ as it became clear there was nothing she could say to keep her job.

Moody reportedly settled with Ms. Hayward for $20,000 in 2006, an agreement which he claims now prevents him from addressing Hayward’s accusations, which he did not specifically deny.

Times reporter Jonathan Martin noted that Hayward’s account was corroborated by her mother, brother, and a former colleague at the auto center.

Shortly after the article was published, the Maine GOP issued a lengthy press release lambasting the Times‘ reporting as a “desperate smear attempt.”

“This is nothing but an attempt by America’s most famous fake news outlet to attack and smear a good man and great company for partisan political gain,” declared Maine GOP Communications Director Nina McLaughlin.

An attached statement from Moody’s campaign also dismissed the report, saying the national newspaper was aiming to “interject itself” into what has become a tight contest between Moody and Democratic candidate Janet Mills. The campaign also circulated videos of Moody employees vouching for his character.

As the Times notes, the Republican candidate has staked his campaign largely on his reputation and business experience.

“I just have to rest on our track record, our reputation in the community,” Moody told the newspaper, pointing out that 25 of his 200 employees are women in what he described as a male-dominated industry.

Hayward, a single mother and recent victim of domestic violence at the time of her firing, lost her apartment and car soon after losing her job.

“How do you dispose of a single mother when that’s your claim to fame in your campaign?” she is quoted as saying in the report.

Portland named ‘all-star city’ for policies protecting LGBTQ Mainers

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 11:05

Portland has been designated one of the country’s “all-star” cities by national rights groups for its comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinances and inclusive policies in support of its LGBTQ residents.

The seventh-annual Municipal Equality Index, which was researched by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Equity Federation Institute and released Thursday, looks at the policies and protections of 506 municipalities across the country.

In the report, Maine’s largest towns and cities were awarded points between zero and 100 for meeting up to 49 criteria covering citywide nondiscrimination protections, as well as assessing policies for municipal employees, city services, law enforcement, and city leadership’s relationship with the LGBTQ community. Portland is the only Maine city to be ranked an “all-star” city for scoring over 85 points.

In the report, HRC gave “all-star” ratings to 46 municipalities that scored 85 points or more out of 100. Points were awarded for meeting up to 49 criteria covering citywide nondiscrimination protections, as well as assessing policies for municipal employees, city services, law enforcement, and city leadership’s relationship with the LGBTQ community.

Portland scored 86 points, earning the rank of “all-star,” because the city has passed anti-discrimination ordinances on housing and employment, included transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits in the city’s hiring contracts, given city employees domestic partner benefits, and reported hate crimes statistics to the FBI.

“I’m very pleased that Portland is leading the charge and I’m very pleased that the last three years our score has gone up,” said Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling. “I hope others will take the same steps.”

While 34 cities received 100-point ratings in this year’s report, Maine’s largest city fell short because it has not enacted some of the more proactive reforms other cities have piloted, such as anti-conversion therapy protections and youth bullying prevention policies, or creating a LGBTQ liaison or task force with the Portland Police Department.

“I see there are a lot of municipalities around the country that are at 100, and that’s what we need to strive for,” Strimling said. “We’re not there yet.”

Scarborough rated second in the state with a score of 59 points, follow by Bangor at 53 points, South Portland at 52 points, and Augusta at 50 points.

The average score for cities in Maine is 50 points out of 100, which falls below the national average of 58 points.

Across the country, cities are leading the way in creating LGBTQ protections

According the HRC, municipalities, rather than the state or federal government, are leading the way in in creating protections and inclusive policies for LGBTQ residents.

Since the Municipal Equality Index’s debut in 2012, the number of cities earning perfect scores has increased by more than sevenfold, and today at least 25 million people live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state.

“In this political moment, as we face unprecedented challenges to fairness, justice, and democracy at the federal level, we look to local leadership to advance equality for the LGBTQ community,” said Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of the Equality Federation Institute, in a prepared statement.

Advocates with HRC note that progress on transgender equality has been particularly noteworthy in cities across the U.S. this year, continuing a positive trend that the Municipal Equality Index has tracked since its inception.

“Transgender individuals — those whose gender identity differs from that typically associated with their assigned sex at birth — have long suffered discriminatory barriers in virtually every aspect of life,” wrote XaVier Persad in an HRC issue brief on transgender-inclusive employment benefits. “While progress is being made on advancing workplace non-discrimination protections for transgender people, the elimination of discrimination in one vitally important area has lagged behind: health care benefits for public sector employees.”

Portland is the only municipality in Maine that has enacted a policy extending transgender-inclusive health benefits to city employees. Portland’s policy includes fully covering the medical costs of transitioning.

(Photo on 2011 Portland Pride parade via Flickr)

Why do Shawn Moody’s ads look like they were shot in 1996?

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 07:56

Ben and Taryn explain the strategy behind the lo-fi look and analyze all the TV ads in the gubernatorial race. They also pick a winner for best ad, and their choice may surprise you.

Also: Reaction’s to Sen. Susan Collins’ pro-Kavanaugh speech and an update on Question 1, the universal home care initiative.

Plus: how reading science fiction can make you a better activist.

You can ask a question or leave a comment for a future show at (207) 619-3182.

Subscribe to the podcast feed right here using your favorite podcasting app or subscribe using iTunes.

Under cover of Kavanaugh fight, Poliquin voted to permanently install GOP tax plan

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 09:26

The same day that the nation was transfixed by a dramatic Judiciary Committee hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Rep. Bruce Poliquin and his Republican House colleagues quietly approved legislation to permanently establish the GOP tax cuts passed last year, which disproportionately benefit wealthy individuals and large corporations.

The legislation to permanently amend the Internal Revenue Service tax code passed the House on Sept. 28 by a vote of 220-191, with Poliquin voting in favor and his Democratic colleague from Maine, Rep. Chellie Pingree, opposed. Without the new legislation, which has advanced to the Senate for consideration, the tax cuts will expire at the end of 2025.

In a November 2017 poll by Hart Research Associates, only 22 percent of Mainers said they approved of the tax plan, which primarily benefits the wealthiest individuals while dramatically expanding the federal deficit. By restricting federal revenues, Republicans including Speaker Paul Ryan say the legislation has also paved the way for “entitlement reform” – large cuts to safety net programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

A February report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said Trump’s 2019 budget plan – released less than two months after signing the tax cuts into law – included cutbacks to social programs that “would affect a broad range of low- and moderate-income people, including parents, children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Taken together, the cuts are far deeper than any ever enacted and would deepen poverty and hardship and swell the ranks of the uninsured.”

In an analysis of how much money has flowed back to Maine workers six months after the GOP tax overhaul took effect, Americans for Tax Fairness found that out of 33,622 Maine businesses surveyed, only two provided “quantifiable one-time bonuses or wage hikes due to the tax cuts,” while just one of those firms announced new job creation investments resulting from the tax cuts. The report also found 917 out of 682,100 Maine workers have been promised extra money resulting from the tax bill. “Very few Maine corporations are giving their workers a pay hike through one-time bonuses or wage increases due to the tax cuts,” ATF stated.

In a statement following the latest House vote, Maine Democratic Party Chair Phil Bartlett charged Poliquin with “once again trying to cut taxes for those who need it the least.”

“The latest bill they pushed through the U.S. House would add $3.2 trillion to the national debt after the first bill already added nearly $2 trillion. Republicans are making it clear that their top priority is rewarding wealthy donors at everyone else’s expense,” Bartlett said. “Bruce Poliquin talks about ‘balancing the budget,’ yet he continues to support massive tax cuts for the wealthiest among us that add trillions of dollars to our national debt. To say that he’s broken his campaign promises of ‘less debt’ would be a massive understatement. It’s hypocrisy at its worst.”

According to FiveThirtyEight.com, Poliquin’s vote brought his “Trump Score”– a tally by the political analysis website of how closely members of Congress align with Donald Trump’s preferences – up to 96.7 percent in line with the president.

Although considered one of the primary accomplishments of the current administration, national support for the GOP tax plan has plummeted since it was first enacted. A Politico/Morning Consult national poll of 1,989 registered voters taken June 22-24 showed support for the GOP tax law at 37 percent, down from 44 percent in April. Among Republicans, the support dropped from 80 to 70 percent over the same period. Only 25 percent of those surveyed said they had seen an increase in their paychecks resulting from the law, while 52 percent said they did not garner additional pay. When RealClearPolitics averaged the result of four separate polls, 42.5 percent disapproved of the Republican tax reform.

Poliquin has not released any public statements about the permanent tax cut bill. In an analysis of tax issues in the midterm elections released Sept. 20, ATF noted that “Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House, and their allied outside groups, are running a lot of tax ads this cycle, but few are mentioning the new Trump-GOP tax law that is the signature legislative accomplishment of this Congress.”

Among those, the group highlighted a Poliquin ad against Democratic challenger state Rep. Jared Golden that “is typical of how Republicans are using the tax issue in ads. It says Golden repeatedly voted to raise taxes while in the state legislature, opposed tax relief that would save Maine families $2,000, and supports a government takeover of healthcare costing $32 trillion.”

The ad was paid for by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, that has raised nearly $100 million for 2018 elections, with $3.1 million specifically reserved for ads attacking Golden.

Maine progressive groups see surge in activism after Sen. Collins’ Kavanaugh vote

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 09:24

Senator Susan Collins’ decisive vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court last Saturday has spurred a noticeable surge in volunteers and contributions for left-leaning causes in Maine, according to the leaders of a wide swath of progressive organizations.

A Change Research poll released earlier this month showed that Maine voters would be 50 percent less likely to want to re-elect Collins if she voted for Kavanaugh — a statistic that, in the wake of her ‘yes’ vote, seems to have been validated by the Mainers now devoting their energy to progressive groups and candidates.

Chris Glynn, communications director for the Maine Democratic Party (MDP), says more Mainers, driven by their concerns about Collins following her vote, are visiting MDP’s offices this week looking to volunteer for Democrats on the 2018 ballot.

“They know that we’ve got to send Democrats to Washington this year,” he said, “and they know we need to have Democrats in power at the state level to defend our rights if the Trump administration or the Supreme Court try to roll them back.”

Planned Parenthood, one of the first groups to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination, has also witnessed an increase in activism.

“We have seen an increase in action taking, especially in canvassing shifts and pledging to vote,” said Nicole Clegg, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

Emerge Maine, a training program for female Democratic candidates in the state, also saw an uptick in donations after Collins’ vote, although Executive Director Sarah Skillin Woodard noted that the program may see higher giving at the end of a given year for a variety of reasons, Collins’ vote being only one.

Suit Up Maine member and Falmouth resident Jennifer Jones has noticed more people posting in the online resistance groups she moderates, many looking for ways to support progressive causes in the wake of Kavanaugh’s appointment.

“People seem more determined to increase their [Get Out the Vote] efforts,” she said, adding that Collins’ vote has “pulled people out who wouldn’t otherwise get involved.”

In a Portland Press Herald op-ed, Suit Up Maine’s co-leaders Karin Leuthy and Kelli Whitlock Burton shared Jones’ sentiment about Mainers’ growing determination to channel their outrage into not changing the minds of politicians like Collins, but into removing them from power.

“So for those lawmakers out there who suddenly notice that their phones have stopped ringing, don’t take comfort in the silence,” they wrote. “It means we’re busy elsewhere, working to take your seat.”

(Top photo: Signed banner at recent Colby College #WeBelieveSurvivors event.)

Grassley promises Collins $3 million to counter grassroots fundraising

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 16:48

In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) pledged to support Senator Susan Collins after the Maine Republican cast a decisive vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Since Collins voted to confirm Kavanaugh, the “Fund Susan Collins’ Future Opponent” Crowdpac, the online fundraiser started by terminally-ill health care activist Ady Barkan, has climbed to $3.7 million. The fund is mainly comprised of small, symbolic donations of $20.20 from 124,903 donors from around the country.

“I’m going to help raise $3 million to match that,” Sen. Grassley told Fox News Tuesday in response to the swell of Crowdpac donations, which doubled after Collins gave a speech on the Senate floor on Friday announcing her support.

Collins has dismissed the small donations that have been raised against her as political corruption.

Reaffirming her previous remark that she considered the grassroots donations raised for her 2020 Democratic challenger a bribe, Collins again said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday that, “This is a classic quid-pro-quo as defined in our bribery laws. I think that if our politics has come to the point where people are trying to buy votes and buy positions, then we are in a very sad place.”

Grassley’s PACs are largely funded by big donations from corporations

In contrast to the small donations raised for Collins’ future opponent, the $3 million that Grassley pledged to raise for Collins will likely come mostly through large corporate contributions, given Grassley’s history of fundraising for his own political action committees. 

Hawkeye PAC, a political action committee affiliated with Grassley, has raised $487,900 this year, with AT&T, Cardinal Health, Comcast, Prudential Financial, Capital Group, BASF, Microsoft, Union Pacific and the National Association of Realtors all making contributions of over $10,000.

Another PAC affiliated with Grassley, Grassley Committee Inc PAC, has raised $245,896 since 2017 to fund Grassley’s campaigning, with $130,000 coming from large donations from special interest and corporate PACs and another $69,207 from primarily large individual donations.

PACs representing the interests of financial sector firms like H&R Block, Quicken Loans and the Hartford Financial Services Group, food giant Kraft Heinz, plastics and chemical multinational Dow Chemical, and mega-retailer Walmart have all contributed to the Grassley Committee Inc PAC.

Navient, the nation’s largest student loan company, has also contributed to Grassley’s PAC. Last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accused the lender of “illegal practices” that made paying back loans more difficult and costlier for students.

In addition to the campaign funding that Grassley intends for Collins, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, which spent money $1.5 million in support of Kavanaugh throughout the Senate confirmation process, is still spending money on television and digital ad buys after Saturday’s final confirmation vote.

According to the Huffington Post, Judicial Crisis Network just spent six-figures on an ad in Maine lauding Collins for her “hard work” and claiming that she “carefully weighed the evidence” before voting for Kavanaugh.

(Photo: Sens. Chuck Grassley and Susan Collins from official websites.)

Report: Raising home caregiver wages is key to improving quality of senior care

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 06:11

A new report released by Caring Across Generations, an organization supporting Question 1, the ballot initiative to guarantee universal access to home care for seniors and Mainers with disabilities, finds that Maine’s proposed program has a high likelihood of improving care for aging Mainers by addressing a key problem: the compensation of the caregivers who provide the services.

The study, Universal Home Care: Answering the needs of our communities by addressing caregiver working conditions, found that in 2017, 6,000 hours of home care went unstaffed each week in Maine. And according to Sandra Butler of University of Maine School of Social Work, Caitlin Connolly of the National Employment Law Project, and Beth Alameda of Cove Research, who conducted the research, these worker shortages are highly disruptive to disabled and aging Mainers’ access to quality care.

“These are issues that we know we need to collectively address and home care vacancies and shortages are issues that have policy solutions,” said Connolly.

The proposed intiviate, which will go before voters on Nov. 6, would raise home caregiver wages by at least 50 percent. This would benefit a large number of workers in the caregiving field, which is projected to be one of Maine’s most in-demand jobs in 2026. At the same time, according to the research, the state is expected to shed white-collar jobs and retail jobs, including salespersons, cashiers, secretaries and administrative assistants.

‘This is the future of work’

“You don’t want your most in-demand jobs being the lowest paid. There’s an opportunity here, that while you’re meeting the needs of Mainers you’re doing so in a way that makes home care jobs quality jobs,” Connolly said. “What is the future of work? Well, this is the future of work.”

Connolly, Butler, and Alameda found in their analysis of Maine’s caregiving shortage that until the home care jobs pay a livable wage, offer job stability, and provide adequate training resources and employment benefits, it will become increasingly difficult to fill the growing demand for these workers. Providing higher wages, benefits, paid time off, access to training, consistent scheduling, and reliable hours, along with a path for workers to organize, will help to attract workers and curb turnover, the researchers conclude.

“This is not just going to happen on its own,” Connolly said, explaining that despite Maine’s vacancies in the caregiving field, wages are not keeping pace with the cost of living – which she suspects is in part because these jobs have largely been ignored and handled by women. “As we have been seeing, demand is not correlating with pay increases in this field, not in the way that it should,” she said.

Connolly added that Maine’s home care initiative is “an opportunity to reshape what we think of this work.”

Increasing the quality of caregiving jobs will translate into better continuity of care, she explained. “We know that’s the answer,” Connolly said. “The Maine campaign has recognized that in order to ensure that people have access to quality care, we must make these quality jobs.”

Talking with Maine families who had a family member being cared for by a home caregiver, Connolly found that low compensation and high turnover among caregivers was a major problem. “They recognize these workers are being underpaid,” Connolly said.

‘Whoever invests the most in this is going to have the greatest return on investment’

In their research, Connolly, Butler and Alameda also point to the large-scale economic benefit of improving wages and benefits in a field projected to be among Maine’s most in demand. As wages increase, so does economic growth, they explain. Not only do increased wages help attract and retain workers, when those workers see higher earnings, they spend that money within their community, boosting other local businesses.

With this proposed legislation, they argue, Maine has a chance to lead the nation in raising the compensation for work that cannot be outsourced and is increasing in demand throughout the country.

“Whoever invests the most in this is going to have the greatest return on investment,” said Connolly.

She added, “This program will be successful in meeting the needs of Mainers because there is such attention and a commitment to ensuring these are quality jobs.”

(Phoebe Shields, an in-home caregiver, with her client Ruth of South Portland. Photo: Dan Neumann)

Accusing employer of wage theft, Maine trucker appears before Supreme Court

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 10:21

In a case that could prove to be one of this century’s first major labor victories, Maine truck driver Dominic Oliveira appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court last week accusing his employer of wage theft.

In New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira, the driver filed a class-action lawsuit in 2017 against New Prime Inc., a Missouri-based trucking company, for “unpaid wages, a misclassification as an independent contractor, and breach of contract.” New Prime, Oliveira claimed, illegally deprived him of his wages, monopolized his time as an independent contractor, and in turn made it so he could not refuse driving New Prime shipments, which allegedly violated his own LLC’s, Hallmark, contract with the company.

For a brief period, Oliveira had stopped driving for New Prime, but months later he was rehired by the company as a driver rather than an independent contract. He found his duties suspiciously similar to those he had as an independent contractor, suggesting that before he was doing the work of a company driver while erroneously classified as an independent contractor and denied the benefits of employee status, like a minimum wage.

Although Hallmark’s contract with New Prime included an arbitration clause, meaning any disputes between Hallmark and the company needed to be resolved outside of court — likely before a private judge of the company’s own choosing — Oliveira argued that, since he was not Hallmark, the clause did not apply to him and he was exempt from complying with the Federal Arbitration Act of 1926, which states that “[N]othing herein contained shall apply to contracts of employment of seamen, rail- road employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.”

Alternatively, New Prime argued Oliveira and Hallmark were “factually one and the same,” that the contract was not one of employment, and, per the act, Oliveira had to agree to arbitrate. But when the case was brought to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Massachusetts, the court ruled that it was up to a court, not New Prime, to decide whether or not Oliveira was exempt. New Prime appealed, and the Supreme Court decided to hear the case.

“Whether you look at statutes, case law, newspaper articles, even actual contracts themselves, the result is the same: The vast majority of sources call independent contractors’ agreements to perform work ‘contracts of employment,’” argued Jennifer Bennett, the attorney representing Oliveira, in front of the Supreme Court last Wednesday.

According to an analysis by Ronald Mann, a law professor at Columbia University, there “can’t be much doubt about the outcome in a case like this one” considering Justices John Roberts and  Neil Gorsuch, the latter President Donald Trump’s first conservative Supreme Court appointee, seemed to side with Oliveira during the case’s oral argument.

Mann observed that the case carries “considerable practical importance” for workers, particularly independent contractors working in transportation industries.

“So, notwithstanding the long line of cases reading the Federal Arbitration Act broadly, this one has all the indications of a victory for the worker seeking a day in court,” Mann writes. “Indeed, it could be a candidate for one of the earliest decisions of the term.”

(Photo via Flickr)

Decades-old Bangor activist hub contemplates new direction amid declining funding

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 16:21

An activist network with more than 30 years of experience in grassroots organizing against war, inequality, poverty and environmental degradation in the Bangor area is at a turning point due to changing membership demographics and declining funding, says the leaders of Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine.

Peace & Justice Centers members march in the Pride Parade. “Our membership started out 30 years ago with the Baby Boomers, the anti-Vietnam war folks, and that membership is getting older and retiring, on a more fixed income,” said Karen Marysdaughter. | Peace & Justice Center

In a statement released on the organization’s website to its nearly 300 members, the Peace & Justice Center’s steering committee said, “If left to operate as it is now, the center will have to spend down reserve funds to pay rent and staff salaries and will likely close within a couple of years.”

The center’s current projected expenses of $49,425 currently outpaces its total projected income of $38,500.

“We’re not looking at closing our doors anytime soon,” said center Co-Director Karen Marysdaughter, who explained that the steering committee is considering several proposals to revamp the organization to best carry out their mission and to remain financially viable for many years to come. The proposals include reducing paid staff, eliminating their print newsletter, or partnering with other organizations to pool resources and staff — or,  more drastically, dissolving the center.

“Times are really tight for younger people, in term of jobs and making it,” Marysdaughter said, explaining that the center’s membership is heavily skewed towards older Mainers in Bangor and outlying towns such as Waterville, Machias, Ellsworth, and Belfast.

“Our membership started out 30 years ago with the Baby Boomers, the anti-Vietnam war folks, and that membership is getting older and retiring on a more fixed income,” Marysdaughter explained. “The younger generation that is getting involved doesn’t have the discretionary income that my generation had.”

Born in the anti-war movement, the center has expanded to address issues of poverty, environmentalism and social justice

The Peace & Justice Center originally formed in the grassroots energy of the anti-war movement. In the years since, the center expanded to address issues of poverty, environmentalism and social justice. | Peace & Justice Center

Marysdaughter and her partner, Larry Dansinger, the founding director of the center, originally formed the center in the grassroots energy of the anti-war movement. They were among the few organizers to mobilize Mainers against the Gulf War in 1990 by putting them on buses to Washington, D.C.

In the years since, Marysdaughter and Dansinger and the center’s members have expanded to address issues of poverty, environmentalism and social justice, regularly organizing action at the state house and federal building to call for prioritizing poor people and the environment in state and federal budget priorities.

In addition to distributing action alerts and newsletters to members, activists at the center have created a meeting space in Bangor for groups such as Indivisible, the NAACP, mental health advocacy groups, and the Socialist Party of Eastern Maine.

The center was one of the first groups in Bangor to push for the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and on Monday helped lead the second annual Indigenous Peoples Day there.

In recent years, the center has played a critical role in the Bangor area in bringing together a wide variety of progressive issues.

“I think we play a really valuable role in the bangor community, which certainly has progressive organizing going on but is not as organized as Portland as appears to be,” Marysdaughter said.

In years past, the center organized their annual Hope Festival, which brought Bangor activists groups together. The festival had to discontinued because of lack of funding.

Last year, the center helped bring several issue groups together for their “End Violence Together Rally” — where anti-domestic violence groups, indigenous groups, and LGBTQ groups saught to raise awareness of violences in all its forms: poverty, domestic abuse, racism, environmental destruction and militarism.

The center is also trying to center racial justice, by supporting and building coalition with Black Lives Matter organizers, as well as immigrant groups in Lewiston.

“I think we are good at looking at the big picture and building coalition with other groups, and talking about women’s issues, people of color’s issues, and poor people’s issues together,” she continued. “We are trying to continue to bring these voices together to speak with one voice as often as we can to really try to move the needle.”

Mentoring the next generation of activists

Last Spring, Marysdaughter found herself mentoring a group of local students organizing a walkout in solidarity with the March for Our Lives campaign for gun control in response to the Parkland, Florida school shooting. | Peace & Justice Center

Because of the social capital Marysdaughter and Dansinger have accumulated in their years’ of grassroots organizing in Bangor, activists with groups such as Oceana and AmeriCorps have sought them out for advice on mobilizing the local community.

“These organizers come to me and I find myself saying, ‘you should talk to so and so here, or so and so there, and here’s a meeting place that I think would work for you.’”

In Marysdaughter and Dansinger’s adopted role as a mentors to the next generation of grassroots activists, they find themselves fundraising for paid staff, brick-and mortar-meeting space, and communication tools — all the essential infrastructure of movement building.

“In some ways it is harder to fundraise for infrastructure as opposed to single issue groups, which can really mobilizing people,” Marysdaughter said. “I say it’s kind of like house cleaning — no one notices it unless it’s not getting done.”

Last spring, Marysdaughter found herself mentoring a group of local students organizing a walkout in solidarity with the March for Our Lives campaign for gun control in response to the Parkland, Florida school shooting. While young people are finding common cause with one another through social media, the mechanics of organizing a sustained grassroots people-powered campaign have not changed all that much since the anti-war movement, Marydaughter said.

“I do think it’s really hard for the older people like me to step back and trust and let go,” Marysdaughter said. “That’s one of the challenges for the cohort of baby boomers that came of political age in a different time: we need to understand that other people have a stake in this, we can mentor but we can’t take over and tell them how to do, or try to do it for them.”

(Top photo of Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine marching in the Pride Parade courtesy of the Peace & Justice Center.)

Channeling Collins-rage into action: a 5-step guide

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 09:48

Are you boiling over with rage at Senator Collins’ astounding betrayal of Dr. Ford, of survivors, of all women, of the thousands of her constituents who’ve written letters, called into jammed-up phone lines, re-lived their trauma in public spaces, and literally begged her to see them and believe their pain and vote for their human dignity?

Did you watch her utterly resounding and unwavering defense of Brett Kananaugh, the very epitome of unchecked, unaccountable, unapologetic white male privilege, and want to throw up, and/or throw your phone or laptop or radio across the room?

Does the injustice of this moment and feeling the pain of all those who are deeply hurting and the thought of all those who will be hurt by a Supreme Court that’s ready to overturn a century of progress make you want to just … burn it all down?

Here are five suggestions on steps to take to channel your rage, heartbreak, despair, and disgust into action and towards the Maine and world we wanna be building together.

1. If you are in a lotta pain right now, please do something kind for yourself this weekend.

This is the proverbial putting on our own airplane oxygen mask first. If we are gonna hold the pain of our loved ones and figure out a way forward, we gotta start by taking care of ourselves.

In the wise words of Shay Stewart-Bouley (see #5 on leaders to follow, including her):


Remember, you are not alone. If you’re interested in speaking with someone, call RAINN toll free at 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. If you reach an answering service, you can try calling back after some time has passed, or you can choose to call during regular business hours when more staff members are available. You can also access 24/7 support online by visiting online.rainn.org You can also access 24/7 support by a trained Crisis Counselor by texting 741741 anywhere in the U.S. through Crisis Text Line.

2. If there are others around you in a lotta pain, please do something kind for them.

Men, read this great post on how to show up for the women, non-binary, and queer people in your life.

Everyone: please help crowdsource this list of women- and POC-owned businesses where you can go for a drink/bite with loved ones and/or buy a gift certificate for some much-needed care.

3. Sign up right now to volunteer on a campaign in the next month to win some change at the ballot box in November.

Make no mistake: the nomination of Kavanaugh, and Collins’ vote for him, has nothing to do with morals, or ethics, or logic, or reason, or emotion — it has been from the beginning an exercise of power. Now is not the time to shy away from taking power back.

This is a list of women running for office in Maine who are facing tough races. Many of them are running against men; some of them are running against women — cause, as we’ve learned all too well, simply being a woman in office doesn’t always (or often) equate to dismantling patriarchy; and guess what, my white sisters: white women are still a (the) major problem with politics in our country.

Also, folks, Question 1 on the ballot will provide universal in-home care for seniors and people with disabilities, work that is done overwhelmingly by women — largely low-income, increasingly POC, and underpaid across the board. This is about gender justice, and y’all should throw your support behind this bold structural change for our oldest-ass-state in the country.

Click the sign up link (it’s quick!) and an organizer will be in touch shortly with specifics based on how you want to help. Sign up right now before rage dissipates into sadness or apathy.

4. Throw some money at the CrowdPAC to unseat Susan Collins in 2020.

Folks, we deserve so much better. Raise your hand if you’re ready to work like hell to unseat Collins in two years — and throw a few bucks at one of the biggest political statements of this whole confirmation process.

5. If you aren’t already following these powerful leaders, do so now:

https://www.facebook.com/blackgirlinmaine/

https://www.facebook.com/AmbassadorDana/

https://www.facebook.com/sacredinstructions/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008573613315

https://www.facebook.com/UpWithCommunity/

http://www.rebeccatraister.com/

Fellow white women: if ur at a loss for what to do right now, work for racial justice

Our privilege props up the white dudes who don’t give a shit about us

Patriarchy requires our wanting to keep that privilege intact

— Cameron Esposito (@cameronesposito) October 4, 2018

(Photo: Thousands of protestors marched from The Prettyman Court House to the Supreme Court in opposition to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh via Flickr.)

Channeling Collins-rage into action: a 5-step guide

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 08:00

Are you boiling over with rage at Senator Collins’ astounding betrayal of Dr. Ford, of survivors, of all women, of the thousands of her constituents who’ve written letters, called into jammed-up phone lines, re-lived their trauma in public spaces, and literally begged her to see them and believe their pain and vote for their human dignity?

Did you watch her utterly resounding and unwavering defense of Brett Kananaugh, the very epitome of unchecked, unaccountable, unapologetic white male privilege, and want to throw up, and/or throw your phone or laptop or radio across the room?

Does the injustice of this moment and feeling the pain of all those who are deeply hurting and the thought of all those who will be hurt by a Supreme Court that’s ready to overturn a century of progress make you want to just … burn it all down?

Here are five suggestions on steps to take to channel your rage, heartbreak, despair, and disgust into action and towards the Maine and world we wanna be building together.

1. If you are in a lotta pain right now, please do something kind for yourself this weekend.

This is the proverbial putting on our own airplane oxygen mask first. If we are gonna hold the pain of our loved ones and figure out a way forward, we gotta start by taking care of ourselves.

In the wise words of Shay Stewart-Bouley (see #5 on leaders to follow, including her):


Remember, you are not alone. If you’re interested in speaking with someone, call RAINN toll free at 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. If you reach an answering service, you can try calling back after some time has passed, or you can choose to call during regular business hours when more staff members are available. You can also access 24/7 support online by visiting online.rainn.org You can also access 24/7 support by a trained Crisis Counselor by texting 741741 anywhere in the U.S. through Crisis Text Line.

2. If there are others around you in a lotta pain, please do something kind for them.

Men, read this great post on how to show up for the women, non-binary, and queer people in your life.

Everyone: please help crowdsource this list of women- and POC-owned businesses where you can go for a drink/bite with loved ones and/or buy a gift certificate for some much-needed care.

3. Sign up right now to volunteer on a campaign in the next month to win some change at the ballot box in November.

Make no mistake: the nomination of Kavanaugh, and Collins’ vote for him, has nothing to do with morals, or ethics, or logic, or reason, or emotion — it has been from the beginning an exercise of power. Now is not the time to shy away from taking power back.

This is a list of women running for office in Maine who are facing tough races. Many of them are running against men; some of them are running against women —cause, as we’ve learned all too well, simply being a woman in office doesn’t always (or often) equate to dismantling patriarchy; and guess what, my white sisters: white women are still a (the) major problem with politics in our country.

Also, folks, Question 1 on the ballot will provide universal in-home care for seniors and people with disabilities, work that is done overwhelmingly by women — largely low-income, increasingly POC, and underpaid across the board. This is about gender justice, and y’all should throw your support behind this bold structural change for our oldest-ass-state in the country.

Click the sign up link (it’s quick!) and an organizer will be in touch shortly with specifics based on how you want to help. Sign up right now before rage dissipates into sadness or apathy.

4. Throw some money at the CrowdPAC to unseat Susan Collins in 2020.

Folks, we deserve so much better. Raise your hand if you’re ready to work like hell to unseat Collins in two years — and throw a few bucks at one of the biggest political statements of this whole confirmation process.

5. If you aren’t already following these powerful leaders, do so now:

https://www.facebook.com/blackgirlinmaine/

https://www.facebook.com/AmbassadorDana/

https://www.facebook.com/sacredinstructions/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008573613315

https://www.facebook.com/UpWithCommunity/

http://www.rebeccatraister.com/

Fellow white women: if ur at a loss for what to do right now, work for racial justice

Our privilege props up the white dudes who don’t give a shit about us

Patriarchy requires our wanting to keep that privilege intact

Fellow white women: if ur at a loss for what to do right now, work for racial justice

Our privilege props up the white dudes who don’t give a shit about us

Patriarchy requires our wanting to keep that privilege intact

— Cameron Esposito (@cameronesposito) October 4, 2018

Video: Mainers react to Collins’ announcement that she will confirm Kavanaugh

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 20:08

On Friday afternoon in Lobsterman Park in Portland, a crowd of protesters gathered to oppose Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh while awaiting Senator Susan Collins announcement in the Senate. Here are their reactions after Collins said she would vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

 

Sen. Collins announces support for Kavanaugh

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 15:54

As demonstrators chanted “Show up for Maine women, vote no!”, Senator Susan Collins announced her support for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on the Senate floor Friday, citing concerns with the “special interests” that allegedly raced to oppose Kavanaugh from the onset and misrepresent him, as well as the inability of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s witnesses to corroborate her accusation that Kavanaugh tried to sexually assault her in high school.

She said, in response to constituent concerns that Kavanaugh would dismantle the Affordable Care Act and undermine Roe v. Wade, that she “disagreed,” going on to describe the outcomes of particular cases to justify her disagreement with constituents. She had previously described a CrowdPAC effort spearheaded by Mainers to finance her Democratic opponent’s campaign in 2020 if she votes for Kavanaugh, primarily through small donations, as amounting to a “bribe.”

“He has been an exemplary public servant,” she said on the Senate floor.

Viewed as a critical swing vote, Collins’ support comes after months of remaining officially undecided and despite relentless activism in Maine and multiple sexual allegations against Kavanaugh — with Ford testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee late September.

The senator appeared satisfied days earlier with the one-week FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh, saying that it appeared to have been “very thorough,” according to a report from CNN.

Once a popular senator, Collins’ support in Maine has eroded, with a recent poll showing her disapproval rating at 59 percent. The poll, released days before her announcement, also showed that 50 percent of Mainer voters would be less likely to vote to re-elect her in 2020 if she votes for Kavanaugh.

“Collins’ support of Brett Kavanaugh is an astounding betrayal of her constituents,” said Amy Halsted, co-director of Maine People’s Alliance, one of the organizations behind the CrowdPAC, in a press release. “The legacy of moderation she has worked so hard to craft, has today disintegrated.”

A final vote to confirm or not confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is expected Saturday.

(Top photo from C-SPAN video.)

Viral video demands Collins come home and face sexual assault survivors

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 13:30
http://mainebeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/beacon_podcast_100418-1.mp3

 

This week on the Beacon podcast, Taryn, Ben and Mike discuss a video that went viral Thursday demanding that Senator Susan Collins come home to Maine and look sexual assault survivors in the eye.

Also: Mainers can now vote early in favor of Question 1, the initiative to guarantee universal access to home care to seniors and Mainers with disabilities. Absentee ballots arriving at town offices across the state this week, and voters can now cast their ballots in-person, requesting a ballot by mail, or visit VoteEarly.me

Plus: Marking progress in the 18-year legal fight by Maine People’s Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council to hold one of Maine’s top polluters accountable, an engineering report ordered in 2015 to assess the costs of cleaning up mercury contamination of the Penobscot River estuary was filed in federal court in Bangor Tuesday, moving the massive cleanup project one step closer to beginning.

Subscribe to the podcast feed right here using your favorite podcasting app or subscribe using iTunes.

HoltraChem report shows way to clean up dangerous mercury from Penobscot

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 12:21

Marking progress in the 18-year grassroots legal fight to hold one of Maine’s top polluters accountable, an engineering report ordered in 2015 to assess the costs of cleaning up mercury contamination of the Penobscot River estuary was filed in federal court in Bangor Tuesday, moving the massive cleanup project one step closer to beginning.

In 2000, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Maine People’s Alliance filed suit in federal court against Mallinckrodt US LLC, the last corporate owner of the former HoltraChem chemical manufacturing plant in Orrington, for dumping up six to 12 metric tons of mercury, a neurotoxin, into the Penobscot River from 1967 into the early 1970s causing substantial endangerment to human and animal health and damage to ecosystem of the river its estuary.

On Tuesday, a report by Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure, the Portland-based engineering firm contracted to complete the court-ordered assessment, estimated that the cost of remediating the river’s contaminated sediments would cost Mallinckrodt between $246 million and $333 million, according to the Bangor Daily News.

“This is the latest victory in a decades-long fight for justice for everyone who lives near New England’s largest watershed,” said Mike Tipping of the Maine People’s Alliance. “First the courts recognized the threat to human health from tons of deadly mercury, then they made clear that Mallinckrodt is responsible for their actions and now we know that a cleanup can proceed. It’s time for this corporate polluter to finally clean up their mess.”

Engineers with Amec Foster Wheeler have recommended remediation which include dredging contaminated surface sediments and filling in new soil at six points between the Orrington plant site and Verona Island, as well as capping sediments in the 668-acre tidal wetland Mendall Marsh with clean soil, according to the Bangor Daily News.

However, a trial on the recommended remediation is not set to begin until October 2019.

Mercury concentrations in several species of songbirds in Penobscot marshes are higher than anything reported in the scientific literature

According to one study, mercury in the blood and feathers from red-winged blackbirds were 15 to 25 times greater than other studies measuring mercury levels in the same species in other locations. | Flickr

Originally operated by the firm IMC, the Orrington plant was built in 1967 to produce chlorine and sodium hydrozide for use in the state’s pulp and paper industry. The plant used mercury in a chlor-alkali process to create chemicals and dumped the waste directly into the Penobscot. HoltraChem took over operation of the plant from 1994 until it went bankrupt in 2000. Mallinckrodt was the last owner of the facility.

The damage inflicted upon the Penobscot River and Penobscot Bay ecosystem will take a sustained remediation campaign to repair, experts following the case say.

According to Nick Bennett, a scientist with the Natural Resources Council of Maine who is documenting the case, the river and its bay ranks quite high among recorded mercury levels found in river sediments around the world, according to Nick Bennett, a scientist with the Natural Resources Council of Maine who is documenting the case.

In response to high levels of mercury contamination found during court-ordered study, the state in 2014 halted lobster and crab harvesting in a seven-square-mile area at the mouth of the river.

Another study demonstrating the severity of the mercury contamination concluded that the mercury concentrations in several species of songbirds in Penobscot marshes are higher than anything reported in the scientific literature.

Mercury in the blood and feathers from red-winged blackbirds, for example, were 15 to 25 times greater than other studies measuring mercury levels in the same species in other locations.

It would take 30 to 60 years for the mercury levels in the river to decrease enough to be considered safe for humans and animals, if no remediation efforts took place.

Remediation of the HoltraChem plant site in Orrington continues

Meanwhile, Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is overseeing the decontamination of the former plant site in Orrington. Operating under a seperate 2010 court order, Mallinckrodt must pay to excavate all soil where the plant once stood containing 2.2 parts per million of mercury and transport it to secure landfills in New York and Canada, to ensure the river is not continuing to pollute the Penobscot River.

In June, representatives from Mallinckrodt sent a letter the DEP requesting that the company be relieved of several key stipulations mandated in the 2010 court order, such as completely removing the plant’s vast sewer system.

In an Aug. 7 letter, Paul Mercer, the DEP commissioner, rejected all of Mallinckrodt’s requests.

(Photo: Penobscot River via Flickr)

Maine student survivors to Collins: ‘Kavanaugh is not an acceptable choice’

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 05:34

Denouncing Judge Brett Kavanaugh as an unacceptable choice for the U.S. Supreme Court, University of Southern Maine students participated in a walk-out Thursday afternoon to advocate for survivors of sexual violence — including between 20 and 25 percent of college women — and ask Senator Susan Collins to reject his nomination.

Organized by Huskies for Reproductive Health and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the walk-out brought together a handful of faculty and more than 20 students, who joined their peers at Bowdoin College and 18 other college campuses nationwide participating in their own walk-outs

“Judge Kavanaugh is not an acceptable choice. Everyone here knows that,” said Hannah Matthews, a campus organizer for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “I think we know Senator Collins knows that.”

Collins has not yet said whether or not she will vote to confirm Kavanaugh, who is viewed unfavorably by more than half of Maine voters.  Matthews reassured survivors in attendance that their stories were powerful because they were the truth, and that Collins is beholden to the people in her state, including them.

“Susan Collins works for you,” she said. “She does not work for the president. She works for the people of Maine. And she works for women, and for people of color. She works for LGBTQ+ Mainers, and she works for survivors of sexual assault. It is in her job description to protect us and to respect us.”

University of Southern Maine students called Collins’ Washington, D.C.office and found that the senator’s voicemail was full. | Cara DeRose

“How thorough can it be?” asked Maisarah, a women and gender studies student and Saco resident, about Collins’ remark that the one-week FBI investigation into  sexual assault allegations made against Kavanaugh appeared to be very thorough. “I don’t know how thorough FBI investigations can be in a week.”

Maisarah added that she wished Collins could come see the walk-out.

When asked if Collins’ response to President Donald Trump’s comments at a rally mocking Ford was enough, she answered with a firm “no.”

Maisarah, who argued that a one-week investigation couldn’t be described as ‘thorough,’ calls Collins’ D.C. office. | Cara DeRose

“As a senator, no. As a woman, no. You need to believe sexual assault victims when they’re telling the truth.”

“I don’t think we can speculate until we hear her say what she’s going to do,” said Mariah Reed, a leading member of Huskies for Reproductive Health and an Old Orchard Beach resident.

Reed admitted that, at this point, she felt she had no choice but to have faith in the senator.

“I can’t give up hope,” she said.

Kirby Kellogg, a student senator and Jonesport native, believes that the investigation had “gone on too quickly.”

“A week-long investigation is just ludicrous, especially for something of this magnitude,” she said. “This man is going to be a Supreme Court Justice for life. I’d be calling for a much longer investigation and for the information about that investigation — as much as it can be — be released to the American public so they could see exactly the person [being] voted for.”

When asked if she believed Collins will vote to not confirm Kavanaugh, Kellogg was unsure.

“I hate that I’m not sure,” she said.

The University of Southern Maine walk-out occurred an hour before more than a hundred protestors, some also students from the university, convened at Lobsterman Park in Portland and marched to the U.S. District Court as part of an anti-Kavanaugh and pro-survivors demonstration organized by Mainers Against Kavanaugh. While some Mainers participated in a sit-in at Collins’ Portland office, others were simultaneously meeting with Collins’ staffers at her Washington, D.C. office to share their stories and put additional pressure on the senator to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination.

(Top photo: University of Southern Maine students who left their classes as part of the nationwide walk-out. | Cara DeRose)

With absentee ballots now available, Question 1 supporters are voting early

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 13:45

With absentee ballots arriving at town offices across the state this week, supporters of Question 1 — the initiative to guarantee universal access to home care to seniors and Mainers with disabilities — rallied outside Bangor City Hall on Thursday to explain why they’re voting early in favor of the referendum and urging others to do the same.

Judith Hilton shows a sample ballot at a press event in Bangor in support of Question 1. “Right now, too many Mainers are losing their life savings, seeing their families torn apart, or being forced into nursing homes because of a lack of basic home care.” | Beacon

“Please join me in heading to your local town hall right now and voting yes on Question 1,” said Judith Hilton, a small business owner who works two jobs to provide care for her 92-year-old father.

“Right now, too many Mainers are losing their life savings, seeing their families torn apart, or being forced into nursing homes because of a lack of basic home care,” Hilton said. “Universal Home Care, paid for by a relatively small tax on those who can best afford it, will only become more necessary as Maine continues to age. It’s time to put this sensible solution into practice.”

Hilton and other supporters of Yes on Question 1 explained that voters can now cast their ballots in-person, requesting a ballot by mail, or visit VoteEarly.me to request an absentee ballot online or find the location of their local town office.

‘If we want to keep young people in Maine, we need to pass Question 1’

Jessica Holz, a former home care worker, who noted that her former colleagues make just above minimum wage, with no benefits and the industry faces turnover of 67 percent a year, said, “I’ve been a home care worker, and I’ve seen firsthand that the current system is unsustainable.”

“If we want to keep young people in Maine, we need to pass Question 1. It isn’t just about helping Maine elderly community members age in their homes, it is also about creating good jobs that pay fair wages, especially in rural Maine,” Holz said.

The initiative proposes to raise home caregiver wages by at least 50 percent.

Home care costs an average of $50,000 a year, compared to more than $100,000 for a nursing home

Alicia Barnes of Common Defense said, “You might think that the VA would cover home care, but too often it doesn’t.” | Beacon

Question 1 will guarantee that all seniors and Mainers with disabilities can get the care they need to stay at home, paid for by narrowing a tax loophole on those who make more than $128,400 a year in personal income, the wealthiest 2.6 percent.

“Maine has one of the largest and oldest veteran populations in the country. You might think that the VA would cover home care, but too often it doesn’t. Too many veterans right now are suffering from a lack of care or are being sent to facilities far away from their families,” said Alicia Barnes, an Iraq War veteran speaking on behalf of the veterans’ organization Common Defense. “It doesn’t have to be this way. With Question 1, we can make sure that no Maine veteran is left behind.”

In addition to being preferable for older Mainers’ well-being, home care is also far less expensive than institutional care, costing an average of $50,000 a year, compared to more than $100,000 for a nursing home. But even that lower expense puts home care services out of reach for most Maine families.

“Let’s honor our loved ones and those who served,” said Wilbur “Skip” Worceseter, a U.S. Army veteran from Hermon. “Join me in voting early, today, for yes on Question 1.”

(Top photo: Jessica Holz speaking at Thursday’s press event in Bangor in support of Question 1. | Beacon)

Rep. Berry: LePage budget office reputation is ‘in the toilet’ after partisan misrepresentations

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 09:19

Former House Majority Leader, Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) says that officials in the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS) — led by Governor Paul LePage appointee Alec Porteous — are misrepresenting the cause of their claim that the state will face a $504-million gap between revenue and spending in the next budget cycle. They say the cause are overcommitments in funding for health care, schools and infrastructure, Rep. Berry says it is actually LePage’s tax cuts for the wealthy.

Rep. Seth Berry said that Gov. LePage’s budget agency is misplacing the blame for the states projected $504 structural budget gap — which he says are the result of tax cuts favoring the wealthy, which he and the state’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review predicted in 2012. “Chickens are coming home to roost and the governor and his agency are saying the buck doesn’t stop with them,” he said. | courtesy of Berry’s Facebook page

DAFS officials issued a statement on Monday, intended as a roadmap for LePage’s successor and newly-elected lawmakers who will begin drafting a new budget in January 2019, that claims Maine faces a $504-million structural budget gap between projected revenue and projected expenditures. DAFS officials claim this gap is largely the result of Maine’s obligations by statute or voter referendum to expand Medicaid to Mainers within 138 percent of the federal poverty line, fund 55 percent of K-12 education, and share 5 percent of its revenue with cities and towns to maintain infrastructure.

While the state is obligated to fund these core commitments, Rep. Berry says the real cause of the projected budget gap is directly tied to LePage’s tax cuts tilted towards wealthy Mainers and large corporations which have precipitated the predicted revenue shortfalls.

“The legacy of this administration is a massive tax break for the wealthy and large corporations that left working families behind, even as the rest of the country recovered from the recession,” said Rep. Berry in a prepared statement on Tuesday.

“Revenue sharing, funding for our public schools and the voter-approved MaineCare expansion help more Mainers thrive, pay their bills and afford the things they need to live a decent life. That’s the only true measure of our state’s economic health,” he stated. “Our success as a state has come despite the governor’s actions, not because of them. It is lucky that for six years, the legislature has been able to reject his most irresponsible ideas.”

State stands to lose out on $864 million in revenue in next budget cycle because of LePage’s tax cuts

Rep. Berry’s statement comes after a report put out last month by the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) that recommends incoming lawmakers eliminate income tax breaks favoring Maine’s wealthy, as well as undo tax havens for large corporations, such as the Maine Capital Investment credit, which their budget analysts say has not proven to spur job creation, raise wages or drive new investment, as the LePage administration justifies them.

The state is projected to have $864 million less in revenue for its next two-year budget than compared to revenues brought in under the 2010 tax code, preceding LePage’s tax cuts, according to the report.

Also, half of the state’s projected loss in revenue has been redistributed to the top one-fifth of Maine households, the report determines, and low- and middle-income taxpayers have had to shoulder rising property taxes — collectively paying an average of $30 million per year more in local property taxes since 2012 — as a result of the state underfunding public education and local infrastructure.

The report, sent to 397 state legislative candidates and all four candidates for governor, recommends that undoing these tax giveaways so that lawmakers can appropriate the $643.5 million necessary to fully fund the state’s core obligations to expand Medicaid, fund 55 percent of K-12 education, and share 5 percent of its revenue with municipalities to maintain infrastructure.

“The Office of Fiscal Program Review, the nonpartisan fiscal office of the legislature, back in 2012 warned that if we enacted the tax cuts for the wealthy that the governor and the majority Republicans were demanding, that we in fact would be looking at hundreds of million of dollars in structural gap in the future,” said Rep. Berry on Wednesday. “And here we are.”

In 2012, Berry wrote a blog post anticipating the budget gaps that are now facing state lawmakers.

“As I predicted six years ago, chickens are coming home to roost and the governor and his agency are saying the buck doesn’t stop with them,” he said. “It does.”

DAFS’ credibility ‘is in the toilet’, says Rep. Berry, echoing Question 1 supporters’ claims about the agency’s partisanship

Kevin Simowitz of Caring Across Generations, left, and Ben Chin campaign manager for Yes on Question 1, right, maintain that “political appointees are trying to play games with” the number of Mainers affected by the home care initiative’s tax on individual incomes over $128,400 per year. | Dan Neumann

Rep. Berry further asserted that DAFS officials have politicized an agency that once produced reliable data on the state’s budget.

“There was a time when DAFS really acted as a nonpartisan, just-the-facts agency,” Rep. Berry said. “I think [DAFS’ credibility] is in the toilet.”

He added, “The maine.gov press release service was never used, prior to this governor, as a vehicle for electioneering and partisan fights. It’s very unfortunate that that’s the case.”

Reflecting Rep. Berry’s comments on that LePage’s budget officials are misleading the public on the state’s budget structural gap, other advocacy groups and political organizers have called attention to DAFS officials’ partisanship.

Last month, organizers with Yes on Question 1 — the campaign to guarantee universal access to home care to seniors and Mainers with disabilities which will go before voters in November — said that DAFS was deliberately misrepresenting the number of Mainers who would be impacted by a proposed 3.8-percent tax on individual incomes over $128,400.

DAFS commissioner Porteous claimed in a Sept. 10 op-ed in the Bangor Daily News that the initiative would tax combined households incomes over $128,400, not individuals, creating what some opponents call a “marriage penalty.”

He pointed to an agency he oversees, the Maine Revenue Service’s interpretation of the imprecise wording of Question 1 on the ballot, which he gave direct input to Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office in drafting.

“I’m not surprised that political appointees are trying to play games with this,” Yes on Question 1 campaign manager Ben Chin told reporters at a press conference on Sept. 5. “You don’t have to take my word for the individual income part, you can look at the fiscal note produced by the Office of Fiscal and Program Review, the only nonpartisan agency that has analyzed this legislation.”

Chin pointed to a OFPR fiscal note that supported the initiative’s supporters’ assertion that the proposed law, as written, would apply to only individual incomes over that threshold — applying a tax on Maine’s wealthiest 2.6 percent, according to a Sept. 21 report by MECEP.

Additionally, Patrick Strawbridge, the lawyer representing LePage in Maine Superior Court in defense of the administration denying an estimated 70,000 Mainers access to health care through voter-mandated Medicaid expansion, has cited budget forecasts made by DAFS official which anticipate higher expansion costs than other forecasts have made.

In court last week in Portland, Maine Equal Justice Partners, the advocacy group suing LePage’s office for blocking Medicaid expansion, called as a witness an OFPR analyst that refuted the LePage’s budget department’s claims that Maine’s 10-percent share of the expansion costs will climb up to nearly $100 million per year. The OFPR analyst testified in court that the state’s projected cost is actually between $45-50 million per year, with the federal government paying in more than $500 million per year.

(Top photo of Gov. LePage via the governor’s Facebook page.)

Maine women demand to be heard as Sen. Collins’ approval rating slips

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 06:22

A vigil in Portland’s Lobsterman Park on Wednesday evening, part of a national day of action promoted by MoveOn.org, was attended by dozens of Maine sexual assault survivors and their allies who fiercely oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination and demand Collins “look” at them and listen.

“I want to say: Senator Collins, look at me when I’m talking to you,” said Dr. Kim Simmons, a women and gender studies professor at the University of Southern Maine, with the crowd quick to respond: “Look at us!”

“One of the most amazing things that has come out of this horror show is the amount of women who are standing up,” she continued. “For ourselves, for each other, for our communities.”

What women came out to do at the vigil needed to extend beyond the Senate vote for Kavanaugh, she added. From here on out, the “power of our own big voices” must be brought with women everywhere they go, and they must practice telling those who aren’t taking them seriously in their lives to listen when they’re talking.

As Collins continues to remain undecided on the nomination, her standing among Maine voters seems to be slipping. A new poll from Change Research puts her disapproval rating at an unprecedented 59 percent, with 50 percent of voters polled saying they would be less likely to re-elect Collins if she votes to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who remains unpopular in Maine. The internet-based pollster did not release a complete methodology.

“Do we want her to believe women?” asked Amy Halsted, co-director of Maine People’s Alliance, who helped organize the vigil. The crowd responded just as quickly, and loudly, as before: “Yes!”

Some of the vigil’s attendees accompanied Marie Follayter and Di Ni Merz , co-founders of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, as they hand-delivered two boxes containing 1,000 letters from Mainers asking Collins to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination to a staffer in Collins’ Portland office at One Canal Plaza.

Merz and Follayter shared their own experiences of sexual violence and how Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony resurrected difficult memories, as well as showed how unfit Kavanaugh is to serve on the Supreme Court.

“There’s gotta be someone better,” Merz said, with Follayter’s hand resting on her shoulder.

In a shaky voice, Follayter asked that the senator “please listen” to her and the other survivors whose letters were stacked in the boxes and vote to not confirm Kavanaugh.

“For the people she represents,” she said. “For the people she’s charged with protecting.”

(Top photo: Mainers gathered at Lobsterman Park for the vigil. Bottom photos: Maine women writing notes on a scroll of paper for Sen. Collins. | Cara DeRose)

Pages

Layout Settings