Phoenix Staff

Phoenix Staff

Resurgam: The old Phoenix is the new Phoenix

In a bit of a media mash-up, three former staffers of The Portland Phoenix have returned. 

Associate publisher Marc Shepard, culture editor Nick Schroeder and sales representative Emma Hollander are again infusing the Phoenix with the style and substance it was known for before the alternative newspaper world in Portland blew up two years ago when the paper changed ownership.

Shepard was the associate publisher of the Portland Phoenix for 10 years before moving to the corporate offices  in Boston in 2010. He also was an associate publisher of DigPortland, the short-lived alternative weekly that competed against the Phoenix in 2014-15. Most recently, he was the associate publisher of the alternative weekly DigBoston.

Schroeder began working for the Portland Phoenix in 2009 and was its editor at the point of its sale in 2014. He was then editor of DigPortland and most recently, of the Portland magazine Dispatch, which last published a print edition in December. 

Hollander, also an alum of the old Phoenix and DigPortland, worked for the Bollard before returning to the Phoenix last month. 

They join Phoenix news editor Francis Flisiuk, a 2015 graduate of the University of Southern Maine; sales representative Joanne Alfiero, formerly of the now-defunct Portland Daily Sun; and sales representative John Paul, whose uninterrupted tenure with the Phoenix started three years ago. 

What set off the musical chairs-like personnel changes was the sale of the Phoenix in 2014. 

The Portland Phoenix was founded in 1999, one of a chain of Phoenix newspapers located in Worcester, Mass., Providence, R.I., and Boston. Owned by Stephen Mindich and considered a giant in alt-weekly circles, the Boston Phoenix was an iconic fixture of counterculture and coolness in the 1960s and '70s. 

The Phoenix empire, which also included radio stations and a printing plant, began to crumble in the 2000s, and by 2014, only the Portland Phoenix remained, with rumors of its demise running rampant. 

Then, while Shepard and DigBoston owner Jeff Lawrence were preparing to launch a Portland edition of Dig with many of the Phoenix's staffers, Mark Guerringue, co-founder of three free dailies in New Hampshire and The Portland Daily Sun, bought the Phoenix in the eleventh hour. 

The result was an unintended newspaper war. Seven weeks into it, DigPortland closed.

Guerringue said at the time, in an interview with The Boston Globe, “It really is a story of timing and coincidence, to wind up in a newspaper war neither of us wanted.”

Today, Guerringue is more circumspect and believes all the pieces are in place for the Phoenix to again become an important voice in Portland. “It’s been a long haul for sure, but our goal continues to be for the Phoenix to be a champion of progressive issues and the go-to publication for events and culture.”

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Letters to the Editor

Dear Sir or Madam,

Megan Grumbling’s excellent December 22nd article looking back on a year of theatrical high points was a pleasing antidote to so much and so many of the things to remember or forget about the year past. Maine is now so rich in the performing arts, at all age levels, with democratic institutions such as “Pay What You Want” and many free shows. In Maine, anyone can act or write a great play!

In her modesty, she did not mention her own experimental “Persephone in the Late Anthropocene” seen at the SPACE Gallery and elsewhere, my highlight of 2016, with the regretted composer Denis Nye. The twin plays by the French Pierre Corneille at The Theater Project in Brunswick and The Theater at Monmouth, and the series of five dramatic readings of plays by famous 20th-century Americans in the cozy auditorium at the Maine College of Art come to mind (even the Mayor read a part).

Let our curiously twisted world entering 2017 be the inspiration for many more Maine-origin dramatic works! Some of the best from 2016 can be seen at the Maine Playwrights Festival April 27 to May 6, 2017 at the Portland Ballet Studio Theater on Forest Avenue.

Best wishes for a dramatic New Year — but only on the stage!

Daniel Duff Plunkett, from Portland. 



Dear Sir or Madam, 

As a 21-year-old victim of identity theft and a current student at the University of Southern Maine, hearing about the recent phishing attempt at the Orono Campus scares me. I’ve had first-hand experience about how prevalent scams are and want to share some of the steps I have taken to keep my information, and my money, safe from scammers.

Being aware of where you make purchases and reporting any suspicious activity to your bank and/or the Attorney General’s Office is a good start. This fall, my debit card information was stolen. Because I review my statements each month, I noticed charges that were unfamiliar to me including several purchases at an out-of-state Dunkin’ Donuts.  I canceled my card and worked with my bank to readjust the charges. Had I not been checking my statements, I might not have been able to get my money back.

Most importantly, I placed a freeze on my credit report. Turning on the freeze is free in Maine and prevents identity thieves from accessing all the sensitive information in your credit report. When the freeze is turned on, scammers cannot obtain credit (loans, credit cards, etc.) in your name. Any Maine resident (regardless of age!) can easily freeze and unfreeze their credit report for FREE at any time. Just make sure your place a freeze on your credit report with all three major credit bureaus.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network has great resources and tools available at and you can sign up for free scam alerts to stay ahead of the fraudsters.  I’ve become a lot more cautious of how I’m sharing personal info—online and offline – and I encourage anyone reading this to place a credit freeze right away.

Meghan Jellison, a AARP Maine intern from South Portland. 

Midsummer guide: Festivals and fairs worth checking out

Bangor State Fair
Dating back to 1883 and drawing crowds of up to 70,000, the 10 day long, Bangor State Fair is one of the biggest in the state. It’s got all the bells and whistles of a typical fairground: amusement park rides, carny games, fried dough, farm animals and packs of jubilant teenagers. There’s a certain Maine flair to the affair though, when you factor in the local live music, fudge vendors and agricultural shows. | $12 | July 29 to Aug. 7, 2:00pm to 9:00pm | Bangor, Maine | |

Northern Maine Fair
Dubbed, a “family a-fair,” the Northen Maine Fair, has also been around for a long time. 162 years to be exact. Locals have been gathering here to enjoy the simple things in life: family, friends, food, free stuff and animals. Attractions here include the Flying Wallendas, horse racing, truck pulls, a demo derby, a car show and the baby beef auction. Come pet the goats at this typical Maine gathering, but be warned, it’s over 4 hours away from us. So you better really like goats. | FREE | July 29 to Aug. 6 | Presque Isle, Maine | |

Maine Lobster
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this festival is truly the best and most famous one here in Maine. It's the only one I've been to, that actually resulted in vivid memories from the occasion. The world knows about Maine's Lobster Festival, and past musical guests there have included the Dixie Chicks, Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam and the Temptations. This festival is a superb homage to our marine heritage. Apart from the quality live music, this festival is obviously all about lobster — over 20,000 pounds of it! While you feast on the succulent crustacean, make sure you check out the sea goddess coronation, the international crate race, fine art vendors, the seafood cooking contest, the big parade and the marine tent. I can almost hear the cracking of shells now. | $5 | Aug. 3-7 | Rockland, Maine | |


Picnic Music+Arts Festival

The ninth annual Picnic Music+Arts Festival is a juried indie craft fair, held outdoors in Lincoln Park on Congress and Franklin streets, in Portland. The festival will run from 11:00am to 6:00pm Saturday, rain or shine. Come shop the best in handmade indie crafts and vintage goods. Admission is free. Aug. 6 | Portland, Maine |

The 91st annual
St. Peter's Bazaar
and Street Festival
Food and fun in the Italian street festival tradition. The Italian Street Festival "Bazaar" is an annual fundraising and community event for St. Peter's Church the Italian Parish of the Diocese of Portland celebrating the Feasts of the Assumption and St. Rocco. | FREE | Aug. 12, 13 and 14, 4:00pm to 10:00pm | Portland, Maine | |

Wild Blueberry
Make your way to one of the first places that sees the sunlight of a new day in America, and celebrate everything about a powerful little fruit: the scrumptious blueberry. In downeast Maine, the blueberry harvest is a big deal, and the locals here have an ol’ fashioned good time with it. Scarf down blueberry everything (ice cream, cakes, pies, pancakes) while you enjoy the children’s parade, painted adirondack chairs, an inspired by nature photo contest, a chicken barbecue and streets filled with buskers. There’s also a musical comedy scheduled called, Blueberry to the Future. The jury’s out on what that’s going to be like. | FREE | Aug. 19, 20 and 21 | Machias, Maine | |

Great Falls Balloon
Over 100,000 people are expected to show up to this “world class festival, throughout the weekend. Because I know you all need an excuse to head over to Lewiston, here's one! Dozens of colorful and uniquely shaped hot air balloons will dot the sky overhead, while you sample a multitude of food vendors, carnival rides and artistic activities. The theme this year is “The Force Takes Flight,” so I better see a giant Yoda, or Darth Vader head coasting through the sky. If you're willing to shell out the extra cash, the options there to ride in a hot air balloon, an experience that offers amazing views of the town we all love to hate. | FREE | Aug.19-21 | Lewiston, Maine | |

Brunswick Arts
The 10th annual Brunswick Arts Festival will see the Maine Street and the Town Green downtown abundant with happy people and cultural art offerings. A mime or two are even expected to show up. Apart from the crafts, paintings, sculpture and photography, there will also be several interactive demos and speciality food vendors. Two stages will be hosting live music, and several tables will have activities to distract the kids, like face-painting and craft workshops. Let's get artsy. | FREE | Aug. 20, 9:00am to 5:00pm | Brunswick, Maine | |

Fine Craft/WCSH
Sidewalk Art Festival
The craft show festival happens on the same date as the WCSH Sidewalk Art Festival. The 51st annual WCSH6 Sidewalk Art Festival takes over Congress Street. Expect street closures and throngs of art and craft lovers. | FREE | Aug. 27, 9:00am to 4:00pm |

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Midsummer guide: Musical offerings to beat the midsummer malaise

Beltek Music Festival
Beltek is like fight club, but with spirit hoods, kandi and bubbles. Due to the first rule of fight club, I’m already breaking the rules; so I’m going to keep this entry brief. This used to be an invite-only, private rave party in the woods outside of scenic Belfast, but has now become the best public underground electronic dance party this side of Brooklyn. Here's a quick word from Les Rhoda, a local legend in the dance scene, “For local DJs who are truly committed to the craft, Beltek is the jam. It's run by some of the most veteran DJs in Maine, and to play it is an honor. Definitely a huge family vibe at this fest. Not a big surprise considering the founders came up in the era where Peace Love Unity Respect was a real thing ... and still is.” I couldn’t put it any better if I tried. See you there on Aug. 5.

Put Gater, O.T.T, and
God Damn Chan on
your radar
Maine has always had a romance with locality. We take enormous pride in the things we produce around here, and we're not limited to blueberries and lobster. Gater, for instance, is a group formed of Portland locals Steve Martin, Bryan Kessler and Robbie Cooper, on Guitar, Production, and Keys respectively; and they’ve been producing some of the thickest, funkiest and jazziest tunes heard in Maine or anywhere. You can find them performing with Dopapod at Port City Music Hall on Aug. 25, and at a number of other events during the summer. Having collaborated with Gater on an epic tune titled “Afterthought,” the producer known as Of The Trees is making huge waves on the local and national level, and he’s a Maine native, based out of Portland. His recent EP release party for “Dream Atlas” hailed a new era for his basstastic melodies; and if you missed that, or his last show at Empire with Sixis, you should certainly not miss him at Great North this year. Or Gater for that matter. You might be able to spot O.T.T playing another B2B at Flask’s Open Decks Night with the mighty trap lord God Damn Chan, another Portland producer who is not to be missed. He has been in the studio producing trap, bass music and hip hop instrumentals worthy of performance in Chicago, L.A., and Brooklyn alike. Find him performing with Spose, another Maine legend, at the Middle East in Mass on Aug. 6.

The Great North
Festival: unforgetable
At the top of the list, we have what many are hailing as the pinnacle of the New England festival circuit. John Hicks, executive producer at GNF and the previous proprietor of Carbon Vapor Productions, works closely with Chris Cote, the art director at the Great North Festival and marketing director of the promotions company known as Proper Crew to put on this absolutely insane icon of art and music in New England. The festival itself is an extremely grassroots organization, and has been built from the ground up by the artists themselves. It represents a collaborative community in the Maine area: the collective consciousness of the underground arts and music movement that many people in this state grew up surrounded by. With an eclectic mix of deadhead-vibe jam band goodness, funk, jazz, prog rock, and electronic music ranging from house to dubstep to glitch hop, this festival will satisfy all ears. Furthermore, the festival is acutely geared towards supporting visual artists, including visionary painters, VJ’s and fire spinners. While you’re killing time until this festival starts on Sept. 9, stay plugged in by attending the Winterport Opera House’s Road to Great North event series! Cote will be hosting many big names from the lineup, including Kung Fu with Gater on Aug. 12. Cote says that “with W.O.H we are really pushing the limit on production value. We are currently building a huge projection structure to project content on, with several lasers and light movers. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

  • Published in Music

March 3, 2016

City councilor urged to set up Parkside meeting on housing


(This letter was directed to City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau regarding possible West End/Parkside Meeting, Housing Committee.)

The Parkside Neighborhood Association board has authorized me to inquire if it may be possible for the City Council Housing Committee, upon which you serve, to consider holding a public forum in our West End, possibly in the Parkside Neighborhood Center, as the Council considers the challenges and stresses of the housing situation in our city?

As you know, the Parkside/Bayside neighborhoods are the most densely populated and diverse single square mile of Maine. In the best of times, safe, adequate and affordable housing is at a premium here, as in much of Portland.

This situation has been thrown into stark relief by the mass evictions on Grant Street earlier this very week.

Holding a public session of the Housing Committee in the very middle of this neighborhood, and all it symbolizes, may present a useful opportunity for the committee to see and hear firsthand from those most affected by every angle of Portland’s housing dilemma.

If the Housing Committee agrees, the Parkside Neighborhood Association may offer the neighborhood center at 85 B Grant Street as a possible venue. Many city HCD meetings have been held here. The space has proven adequate and 85 B Grant Street is also a neighborhood policing center.

Would you please explore this opportunity with Housing Committee Chair, Councilor Jill Duson and your fellow committee members, and share their ideas and responses with us?

Thank you for your attention to this, and for your service to the city on this important and far-reaching committee.

Herb Adams

Board member

Parkside Neighborhood Association


Governor LePage should release Housing Bond funds


Despite passage months ago, the Housing Bond funds earmarked for older Mainers in need of affordable housing have yet to be released. Maine State Housing Authority awaits word from Governor LePage. Meanwhile, older, vulnerable Mainers, many of whom have been kept in limbo for years, continue to wait for a home they can afford.

Maine’s senior housing shortage is at a crisis point. Nearly 9,000 older Mainers are waiting for affordable housing options in their communities. Some are being told it will be at least five years before they will have a home. Without action, the shortfall of affordable housing will grow to more than 15,000 by 2022.

Surveys consistently show that Mainers want to remain in their own homes and communities as they grow older.  The Housing Bond will begin to enable more Mainers to do just that by building new, affordable homes for older Mainers and dedicating funds to home repair and weatherization of existing homes, some of the oldest in the country.

Last year, a broad coalition of more than 150 organizations including aging and housing advocates, developers and construction workers, came together to pass bipartisan legislation and then took the issue to the voters. The people of Maine strongly supported the measure with close to 70 percent voting in support of the Housing Bond.

High housing costs force millions of low-income older adults to sacrifice spending on other necessities including food, undermining their health and well-being. In fact, 37 percent of those aged 80 and over pay more than 30 percent of income for housing.

The Governor must take action on behalf of the people of Maine. From Ft. Kent to Kennebunk, people are looking for housing they can afford so they can remain in their own communities as they age. AARP Maine calls upon Governor LePage to release the Housing Bond funds immediately.

Rich Livingston

AARP Maine State President



Note to a Senator: Changing the law for political whims


To Kelly Ayotte and your disregard for the Constitution. In the nomination of a Justice to the Supreme Court in case of vacancy it clearly states it is the duty of the president whoever at that time of occurrence to nominate a candidate and submit it to the senate for approval. It does not say if a particular president has less than this much time left he must wait for the next election. It states he is the trigger to the process as duly elected president.   

You say he should wait and forego his responsibility because he is not of your party. You sound like all those in the Senate and House who have refused to vote on anything he has proposed regardless of the cost or consequences. If the process were to be move forward this time, does that mean that next time to suit an opponent’s whims on a party opposite to the then president it should be moved forward 18 months or two years, and on each time one opposition refuses to work with the other.  

It doesn't mean that, but it is clearly written in recognition of the power bestowed on the office of president as commander and chief and initiator of this process at the time of any occurring vacancy. It is further intended to implore the three parties of government to work together in this process and realize that they are individually not going to everything to their needs but must learn to work together with the enemy, which in these days has seemed to have become the mode of many in the Congress.

As a voter and believer in this great government, I believe it is inherent to follow the Constitution and show some respect for the office of president and let him dutifully carry out his responsibility, not option, and consider and submit a nominee to the court.

If you and others stop this bickering and criticism and allow him to fulfill this duty and obligation, you may be surprised in the end at the selection. Most presidents through history have shown a particularly adept hand in this particular process and maintained the integrity of the Supreme Court. I see it as sad that many have at times slighted the office because they might not agree with a particular president’s beliefs. They are only depriving themselves of the honor of meeting the president whoever in the White House. Perhaps they should select an ordinary voter to go as a sub in future cases, therefore sending someone honored to meet him, because regardless of particular persuasion he is president of all when elected. The seemingly forgotten premise in this country today.

John Flynn Sanford

Letters, Feb. 18

Tilted Kilt critics bring to mind Puritan or Sharia rules for women |

(Re: “Is the Tilted Kilt ‘A Step Backwards’?” Feb. 4 Phoenix:)
The Tilted Kilt is not “a step backwards.” Rather, it is the critics of the Tilted Kilt who want us to take a step backwards, to the Puritans of our Colonial era, whose rules for their women were something like a Protestant version of Islam's Sharia Law.

Russell Frank

Gattine deserves praise for caregiver legislation in Maine

I just learned that Representative Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, received AARP’s 2015 Capital Caregiver Award.
There is no legislator more deserving of the award than Representative Gattine. It's difficult for me to thank him adequately for the work he has done for Maine’s 178,000 caregivers and their families in making the CARE Act and its three important provisions law.
I was a caregiver to both of my late parents. I know first hand the struggles, frustrations and all the other range of emotions that go with the job of caring for a loved one. The caregivers of today will benefit greatly from the increased communication and support required in the CARE Act.
Representative Gattine’s leadership, sincerity and passion to help caregivers and their families in his own district and across Maine have produced fruitful results.
I thank him sincerely for his dedication to Maine’s caregivers.

Amy E. Madge

Stigma of change: Don’t put too much weight on early primary season

Two primaries now and listening to the pundits, it's an establishment revolution. Really? Not so fast, maybe. There is no doubt that on both sides last Tuesday night, new candidates or outsiders as demagogues have it, are in control.
Perhaps this is so but there are many primaries left with different challenges for different candidates, and judging from past history, it ain't over ‘til it's over!
Trump won his first one and so did the extremist from the other party and that's a hell of a boost for newcomers to this process and could carry them through other primaries. Factors, however, include other candidates, voter trends in other primaries and, crucially, a big question: When and if these outsider candidates from each party do proceed through the political obstacle course of nomination procedure and secure their party's individual nominations, are those who supported them along the way going to get what they’re advertising?
Possibly but reality is as always a rude awakening. Mr. Sanders promises complete Wall Street reform and congruently limitation on its money grabbing and cash flow to the top or wealthiest part of society and allowing it to fail when in duress as in 2008. Will he really be able to do it and most importantly can the country afford it. Not to say that a more equal disposition of the wealth can be achieved but perhaps to a far lesser extent than projected.
Lastly his healthcare plan is really nonexistent at this point and more like what Trump proposes which is completely turning health care over to the insurance companies and erasing the immense progress of the Affordable Care Act.
Also, Mr Trump with his flair for the personable has continued to show his popularity and won but can the nation absorb what he proposes: Building a wall across the Mexican border, banning Muslims from entering the country, demeaning the disabled or deformed, demeaning women, asking thousands of veterans to go to Syria and fight for him and calling them cowards when they get captured, shot down or, in any harsh way become prisoners of war and considering anyone coming out of Mexico as either a drug dealer, rapist or a murderer. Not to mention his love of Russian leader Putin even though he kills journalists and eliminates anyone who achieves any power in his country.
It is possible he can achieve some of these principles if elected but where will we be headed if he does and realistically he also has no real plan or platform other than arouse certain hate and sensationalist types and ride them to power. He may not have a cabinet because nobody knows as much as he does and he loves firing people rather than praising anyone.
Therefore when he is elected and hundreds of thousands of troops return wounded from the apocalypse called Syria, what will we say when he turns his back on them because they lost or were prisoners or need med or psychological attention.
We might be a bit disconcerted and stunned and perhaps down the voting track, we might just decide otherwise and place our trust in more stable hands like Mr. Kasich, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Bush or possibly Mr. Rubio. Sensationalism draws a crowd, but performance and competence draw results and respect.

John Flynn

Protesters outside clinic could hurt patients, lead to horrible consequences


The recent article “Abortion Protests Resume as Battle Brews in D.C.” (Oct. 15 Phoenix) got me thinking, and I wanted to write a bit on the subject. I have strong feelings about abortion, and truly do believe it is legal for good reasons and needs to remain so, but regardless of the abortion debate, I find myself concerned daily for the folks who are likely suffering the most for these weekly protests.

Candidates in their own words

Editor’s note: The Portland Phoenix submitted questions to the three mayoral candidates and 11 City Council candidates. Following are their responses.

Mayor — Candidates are Michael Brennan (incumbent); Tom MacMillan; and Ethan Strimling.

Michael Brennan

1. How would you manage the rampant high-end development and rising cost of living that together are making Portland unaffordable for the typical resident?

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