How lawmakers who don’t belong to a party see their role in Maine’s new Legislature

How lawmakers who don’t belong to a party see their role in Maine’s new Legislature


Good morning from Augusta, where the newly seated Maine House of Representatives includes five people who don’t identify as either Democrat or Republican.

It’s the largest number of independents elected to the House in more than a century. ...

Party defections in the previous Legislature stripped the Democrats of a clear majority and gave independents and the lone Green Independent Party member more leverage with floor votes....



Portland school chief gets 3-year contract extension

Portland school chief gets 3-year contract extension



PORTLAND — When the School Board hired Xavier Botana three years ago to lead the city’s schools, members said they were looking for steady leadership. ...

The board recently renewed Botana’s contract for another three years. The new contract runs through June 30, 2022, at the same annual salary of $148,000. ...

In a School Department press release, outgoing School Board Chairwoman Anna Trevorrow praised Botana for the development and implementation of the district’s new strategic plan, called the Portland Promise, and said “we look forward to continuing to work toward its goals under his leadership.”

Overall, Trevorrow said, the board has been “very pleased with the superintendent’s performance” and said the School Board spent several months evaluating the job he was doing....



Giroux hired as Standish manager

Giroux hired as Standish manager 


By Jane Vaughan


STANDISH — The Town Council voted 6-1 to approve the appointment of Bill Giroux to the position of town manager Tuesday, Nov. 13.  ...

Councilor Peter Starostecki was the only council member who voted against Giroux’s appointment. 

“I don’t have a problem with Bill. I think that he has the skillset to do a very good job, and I think he will serve Standish very well as long as this old boys club doesn’t get their teeth into them,” Starostecki said in an interview Wednesday.

Starostecki said the “old boys club” he referred to is made up of Councilors Greg Sirpis, Mike Delcourt and Kim Pomerleau. 

“I’m not going to bend the knee to the old boys club and pretend that there’s a unified Town Council because it’s not unified whatsoever. It’s very fragmented,” he said. ...



Chairwoman of Portland school board presses for universal pre-kindergarten

Chairwoman of Portland school board presses for universal pre-kindergarten

In her State of the Schools address, Anna Trevorrow recounts successes in the district and says expanded pre-K would 'help make a difference to all students.'



Sampson, McNamara and Reinhardt vie for House District 21

Candidates share viewpoints on array of issues

YORK COUNTY — Incumbent Republican Heidi Sampson of Alfred is challenged by small business owner, Democrat Kelcy McNamara of Alfred, and Green Independent Justin Reinhardt of Limerick to represent District 21, which includes the towns Alfred and Newfield and parts of Limerick, Parsonsfield and Shapleigh. . .Reinhardt currently serves on the Limerick budget committee. . .

Candidates were asked if they believe that access to guns is a key component in school gun violence incidents and mass shootings and if so, what should be done about it in Maine . . .

Reinhardt would like to take steps to amend gun violence while not infringing on the second amendment.

“I think that aside from stronger background checks and closing loop holes for gun shows for access, we should take simple measures to try to minimize the amount of lives a person can take in a short span of time. Limiting magazine sizes, are one of the simpler things we could do without infringing on the second amendment rights of gun ownership,” said Reinhardt.

Candidates were asked how they propose Maine address rising health care costs. . .

Reinhardt believes in a single-payer health care system.

“Maine should be leading the way for a single-payer health care system with or without the assistance of the federal government. MaineCare-for-all, to include mental, health, vision and dental,” said Reinhardt.

We asked candidates their plan to lure high paying jobs to Maine and retain younger workers. . .

Reinhardt believes in infrastructure and industrial hemp.

“Rebuilding our infrastructure, and putting forth the first statewide, publicly-owned broadband services would be a great start to getting younger people more interested in coming to Maine for economic opportunities. As it stands no one is coming to Maine to work for wages that are unsustainable to the cost of living here. We could also start pushing for industrial hemp now that the Denate has passed legislation for it, and get all those mills that were so prevalent in Maine working again,” said Reinhardt.

We asked the candidates what makes them the right choice for voters in this election. . .

Reinhardt believes his Green Party status makes him the perfect choice for voters.

“I represent people, not corporate interests. If you want money out of politics then don’t give it a chance to participate. The Green Party is the only party that does not take corporate funding. In the Green Party we believe in putting people over profit, and making sure that we are environmentally conscious. I believe that we can do better than corporate handouts to war manufacturing, and I believe we are better than robbing those with the least among us to pay for those breaks to corporatism,” said Reinhardt.



Candidates discuss Maine's future

John Rensenbrink: How liberals and progressives in all parties can save our state

John Rensenbrink: How liberals and progressives in all parties can save our state

A repeat political disaster awaits our state on Nov. 6.

Once again we face the consequences of a flawed voting system. The race for governor will again be dogged by the spoiler card. With four people running, this means that liberal and progressive voters in all parties will split their votes among Democratic candidate Janet Mills, and two independents, Alan Caron and Terry Hayes, both of whom are progressives. This gives clear sailing to Shawn Moody, a Republican who touts the dead-end politics of Gov. Paul LePage. This also means that with four people running, the winner in all probability will not be able to govern with a majority of the people behind him or her.

So we liberals, progressives and non-LePage conservatives lose again even though we are in the majority. How long are we going to put up with this? Or do we just sigh, call it fate, and endure the ever-worsening status quo?

But there is a way forward. I especially urge the many liberal, progressive, and non-LePage conservative candidates for the state House and Senate to give dedicated priority in their campaigns to Ranked Choice Voting. Make it a major issue.

First, I urge them to declare their own strong support for RCV.

Second, I urge them to promise, when elected, to fight for the constitutional amendment to have the elections for Governor and State Legislature be governed by the provisions of RCV — just as the races for federal offices (U.S. Senate and House) are already so governed, starting this year.

Third, I urge them to assure their constituents that they hear and heed the establishment of RCV by a solid majority of the people of Maine in two referenda: the general election in November, 2016 and the primary election this past June.

True enough, these actions do not yet correct this year’s races for governor and state Legislature on Nov. 6. But they are a strong start for getting our legislature to pass a constitutional amendment for RCV next year to cover the races for governor and state legislature from now on.

There is also this: I know it’s asking a lot, but it would be widely and deeply appreciated if Alan Caron and Terry Hayes were to step aside and encourage voters to vote for Janet Mills, thus enabling her to win. Alan Caron has already hinted that he may do so if the polls reveal a very close race between Mills and Moody. If they do, they would and should be honored as saviors of the public good. We live in unprecedented times. We can, and must, pull together.

We in the Maine Green Independent Party are not running a candidate for governor this year, freeing us to vote for a candidate to our liking. The MGIP has not as yet taken an official position on the gubernatorial race, and I am speaking only for myself at this point. We are deeply concerned to bring to an end the very harmful policies of the present governor and Shawn Moody’s commitment to continue them.

John Rensenbrink is a Maine Green Independent Party and U.S. Green Party co-founder and adviser. He lives in Topsham.



Musicians get second chance to perform after racial incident in Carlisle

Musicians get second chance to perform after racial incident in Carlisle

Young musicians will get a second chance to perform in downtown Carlisle Thursday night after their appearance at First Friday became the focus of a racially charged post on Facebook. . .

“As a foundation that is dedicated to advocating for and assisting the community of writers, artists and musicians, it seemed like our job to rehire these musicians and invite the community to show support,” said Pat LaMarche of the Charles Bruce Foundation, a Carlisle foundation that supports the arts. . .

Chuck Adler, who is part of Da Merge, said police came to Create-a-palooza and talked to its owners after a neighbor called in to complain about the music. The police talked to the store owners and to the neighbor who complained, but no other action was taken.

The neighbor, identified on Facebook as Patti McCann, then wrote a Facebook post in which she used abbreviations for racial epithets to again complain about the music, and coarse language to describe the performers.

“When these racist comments were made public, I think it shocked just about everyone that someone could be so hurtful,” LaMarche said. . .


Jim Fossel: A vote on power project may revive Greens

Jim Fossel: A vote on power project may revive Greens

The proposed transmission corridor through Maine could allow the environmentalist party to take the lead on a major new referendum.

There was a time when the Maine Green Independent Party was a major force in this state.

Though they never managed to win a major elective office like governor or member of Congress, their candidates regularly had a significant impact on those races. Jonathan Carter, who later ran for governor twice and secured official party status for the Greens, may have significantly altered the political history of Maine – and the nation – by running for Congress in 1992. Although he came nowhere near winning, he did secure nearly 9 percent of the vote, which may have tilted the scale in favor of the Republican incumbent, Olympia Snowe, over repeat challenger Pat McGowan.

If McGowan had won, the 1994 open-seat Senate race when incumbent George Mitchell retired might have been much more competitive.

The Maine Greens have also had an outsized impact on the national Green Party movement in the United States – which should be no surprise, as they were the first state Green Party in the nation. Though Maine Greens have never fielded a presidential candidate, Pat LaMarche was the party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2004, even if the ticket was outshone by Green-turned-independent Ralph Nader.

Unfortunately for the Greens, LaMarche’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign was the last time the party managed to get a candidate on the ballot for a major race. Since then, they’ve mostly made headlines as the largest opposition party in Portland, with a few state legislators here and there over the years.

Much of that early energy in the Maine Greens came from their willingness to use referendums to take on the state’s biggest industries. The state’s bottle law was first enacted as a citizen initiative, and we have Bigelow Mountain Preserve instead of a ski area thanks to a referendum. In other campaigns, environmental activists were less successful: They weren’t able to shut down Maine Yankee (at least, not directly); they could only delay the widening of the Maine Turnpike; and Carter’s efforts to enact a ban on clearcutting forests failed.


Regardless of whether they won or lost, they were able to get a whole host of proposals on the ballot that legislators in Augusta – from both parties – would have preferred to ignore completely. Most ballot measures haven’t been focused on environmental policy recently – instead, taxing and spending, civil rights and cultural issues have taken center stage.

The supporters of those referendums, though, owe much of their success to Maine Greens, who led the way in bringing issues to the ballot in earlier decades.

Another major environmental issue may be coming to the forefront of Maine politics soon, though: the battle over Central Maine Power’s proposed transmission corridor.

CMP’s project – which would involve construction of new transmission lines through Maine to help send hydroelectric power from Quebec to Massachusetts – is still in the planning stages, so don’t look for a vote on it this November. Nevertheless, it’s already become the focus of organized political campaigns from both sides – you’ve probably seen the signs popping up around the state.

It’s easy to imagine the issue appearing on the ballot at some point, however. No matter which way regulators end up deciding, opponents or proponents could decide to short-circuit that process by taking the issue directly to the people, as others have in the past. That explains why both sides are already spending money politicking, hoping to shape public opinion long before the proposal is up for a vote.

If it does end up in voters’ hands, there would be both peril and opportunity for Greens. In years past, fighting a major project from CMP might have seemed quixotic: The company not only wielded enormous influence in Augusta but also was popular with the public.

Lately, though, their star has begun to dim: Recent controversies, from storm response to billing errors, have hurt their image.

CMP has been emphasizing that the project will transport clean energy, so they may be trying to appeal to environmental activists.

Much of the opposition to the plan seems to be funded by power generators, but environmental advocacy groups and environmentally oriented companies – like, respectively, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Patagonia – have joined with them.

This issue doesn’t have a clear-cut delineation between environmental groups and corporate interests, so it may be more challenging for Maine Greens ideologically. Still, it does offer them a chance to lead on an issue that will probably be debated for years to come, so it will be interesting to see how they get involved.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins.



Standish hires interim town manager


STANDISH — The Town Council appointed an interim town manager this week, nearly two months after firing its previous manager.

Councilors voted 6-0 on Sept. 11 to appoint former Bath City Manager Bill Giroux as interim manager while the town continues its search for a permanent replacement to Kris Tucker, who was fired without cause in late July...

Councilor Peter Starostecki, the lone vote against Tucker’s termination, called the firing “a total snow job” the next day...

Startostecki also left that closed meeting early, and expressed frustration about the extent that council business is conducted in executive session...



Portland school board to include island schools, non-school facilities in cost-saving review

Redistricting, school closure and program changes could be among the possibilities considered in a major facilities assessment.


The Portland Board of Public Education agreed in principle Tuesday night that island schools and non-school facilities such as those for food service and administration should be included in a major facilities assessment intended to find ways for the financially struggling district to save money...

Chairwoman Anna Trevorrow agreed that finding ways to save money was the driving force behind the study.

“The reason we are doing this work is so we know where cost savings can be achieved if necessary,” she said. “I know ‘rightsizing’ (is) sort of a hot-button word and there are sensitivities, but I don’t think there should be any illusions about this work. These are not the best-case scenarios; they are realities of what we are faced with financially.” ...



Portland school officials to consider closures, redistricting for cost savings



The Portland School District is launching a major review of facilities that may propose school closures or redistricting as a way to reduce costs, after the latest bruising school budget season...

“This past year, we made decisions to shorten the school year and to make cuts to some of our programs. Those are decisions we may not have had to make had we done this work,” school board Chairwoman Anna Trevorrow said at a recent workshop about the proposal. “That’s an unfortunate position to be in.” ...



What’s in the way of the Maine Legislature finally going home for good


Another leading man

Before lawmakers return for today’s special session, we need to clear up some confusion. There are two minority leaders in the Maine House of Representatives.

Fredette fulfilled the role of House minority leader for his party since 2012. We’ve come to refer to him as “House Minority Leader Ken Fredette” since his caucus — which now includes 70 House Republicans — picked him for that role.

But another House member now lays claim to the title of “House minority leader.” It’s not a challenge to Fredette. It’s a call for affirmation from the House’s only voting member of the Green Independent Party. Rep. Ralph Chapman of Brooksville quit the Maine Democratic Party in 2017 and later enrolled as a Green. He now identifies as “Minority Leader, Green Independent Party” on stationery that, appropriately, lists that title in green font.

Rep. Henry Bear is also registered as Green Independent, but as a tribal representative, he is a non-voting member of the Legislature.

Term limits prevent Chapman from seeking re-election, so today’s session and an ensuing veto day will likely be his last chances to demonstrate his leadership skills on the floor of the House. Here’s his soundtrack. — Robert Long ...




Fear about putting immigrants at risk delays action on non-citizen voting rights

Portland city councilors decide to take more time to address concerns that extending voting rights to some non-citizens could put them at risk of being targeted.

9 States Where Registered Independents Outnumber Both Major Political Parties

by in Electoral Reform

...Maine has an unaffiliated voter population of 34.95%, with Democrats following closely behind at 32.97% and Republicans making up 27.37% of total registered voters.

Interesting News: Maine’s independent voting population had one of the most historically significant impacts on electoral reform within the state. Maine is a closed primary state, which means voters have to be registered with a party to participate in elections that decide party nominations. However, for ballot measures in the 2018 primaries, independents were allowed to participate. Question 1 to protect ranked choice voting, a referendum that Maine voters already approved in 2016, won a decisive victory largely as a result of independent voters.

Interesting Fact: As of this writing there are currently 6 independents in the Maine State Legislature, and one member of the Green Party. Maine also has one of the nation’s only two independent US senators, Angus King...



Portland school board says city’s voters should be asked to extend voting rights to non-citizens

The city charter amendment would apply only to municipal elections and to residents who are in the country legally, but critics say the change would still violate state law.



Maine People’s Alliance launches new online legislative scorecard

The Maine People's Alliance released its annual legislative scorecard, highlighting votes taken by lawmakers in the second session of the 128th Legislature.

For the first time ever, the scorecard includes a second, separate "Will of the Voters" score which compiles votes from across the entire 128th legislative session to indicate whether legislators supported implementing referenda passed by voters and opposed legislation to weaken the citizen initiative process...

Representatives who received a 100% score this year:
... Rep. Ralph Chapman (G-Brooksville) ...
Senators and Representatives who received a 100% Will of the Voters score:
...Rep. Ralph Chapman (G-Brooksville)...



Portland school board to vote on support for noncitizen voting

The board will consider a resolution Tuesday that would support a proposal to allow noncitizens like refugees or asylum seekers to vote in local elections.




These are the 15 American states putting the environment first


Maine is green in so many ways, and not just because it’s one of the places where the political Green Party is so active. Just look at some of its top-five rankings in the WalletHub study:

  • No. 1 for the rate of recycling at 48%, according to Snews.
  • It’s tied for No. 1 for the percentage of renewable energy consumption.
  • Maine is No. 3 for highest water quality.

Next: A small state making a big commitment to going green...