Francis Flisiuk

Francis Flisiuk

8 Days: Empowering Meet-Ups, Knowledge Tests, a Cyber-Party and an Acorn Tasting

THURSDAY, 12

 

CANDID CONVERSATION | How do you feel about the contentious designation of a big chunk of Maine’s northern wood region as the North Woods National Monument? You’re living in Portland, and Obama approved it, so I’m guessing you’re all about it. But the determination was still not without controversy. Regardless of how you feel, a conversation with the man behind the monument, Lucas St. Clair, can only be enlightening. Learn more about what the future of that vast swath of land will look like at the Maine Historical Society, and gain some truth based-ammo for future arguments on the subject.

| $10 | 6:00 pm | Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress St., Portland | www.mainehistory.org |

 

POOR YOUR SOUL | That’s not my clever teaser phrase; it’s the name of a new memoir from Mira Ptacin, a fantastic writer living out on Peak’s Island. The new work, Poor Your Soul, is described as a “short and muscular memoir about survival and preservation, immigration and one’s relationship with grief and recovery, and the confounding layover between youth and adulthood.” No matter who you are, or where you’re at on life’s journey, you could benefit from exploring those themes and finding strength through this creative work. Let the gracious and erudite Ptacin unpack those concepts through her personal experience with an unplanned pregnancy. She’ll be reading from her memoir at Portland’s newest bookstore, while you sip on wine, nibble on cheese, and contemplate your purpose on this spinning rock.

| FREE | 7:00 pm | Print: A Bookstore, 273 Congress St., Portland | http://www.printbookstore.com/ |

 

8days PaperLions

PAPER LIONS N CHILL | An indie pop-rock band from our gloomy neighbor to the North, Prince Edward Island, is desperately trying what all bands are trying: luring you from the unchallenged comfort of Netflix on the couch to experience a live music performance. I know right? What a crazy idea. But the four dudes that make up Paper Lions might actually be worth shaking off the winter-hibernation dust. Their goal on the current tour of their new album Full Colour (see they really are Canadian) is simply to chase away the doldrums with sunny melodies and remind listeners that when we focus our thoughts on the moment, life is good.

| $18 | 8:00 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | www.portlandhouseofmusic.com/ |

 

8Days BronzeRadioReturn

HYPER-CHARGED AND HYPNOTIC | It’s cold outside. Go warm up to the spicy sounds of the roots rock band Bronze Radio Return. They’ve self-described themselves as a big ol’ bowl of chili, so you should probably go get yourselves a scoop. Each member comes with a different musical flavor and once they’re stirred up together on stage, they create a brand new taste. And it’s quite good. That is, if you like swirling electronics, striking falsettos and cinematic soundscapes. These rabble rousers are joined onstage by the bright and edgy musicians of Air Traffic Controller.

| $15 | 8:00 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | http://www.portcitymusichall.com/ |

 

SHADOWING ROCK LEGENDS | If a band’s going to make a career channeling another’s talent, they might as well take some notes from the hugely successful Satisfaction. They’re an internationally touring group with over 2,500 Rolling Stone cover shows under their belt. Rock geeks swear their cover performances are spot on. With close attention paid to costuming, stage effects and, most importantly, musical authenticity, these guys are the closest thing to seeing the Stones on stage in your lifetime. Well, the real Stones are technically still touring, but since you probably won’t be flying out to Paris this summer, my statement still stands.  

| $20 | 10:00 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | http://portlandempire.com/ |

 

FRIDAY, 13

 

SHARE YOUR SPACE | If you’re a longtime local you’ve no doubt witnessed the changing demographics here in Maine. If you’re also a kind person with a working moral compass, then this isn’t bothersome; you do what you can to make Portland a welcoming place for everyone, including people that don’t share your same beliefs, values, and culture. You also realize, that being different is okay, and every single person on Earth has some new perspective to offer, some new wisdom to absorb. The folks at Global Shapers Portland Hub get it. They’ve hosted a dinner and storytelling event called “Hi Neighbor,” which aims to “strengthen relationships, support happier, better-connected communities, and overcome bias and segregation. Go introduce yourself to other people that call Portland home and examine the connection between identity and geography.

| DONATION BASED | 5:30 pm | Babylon Restaurant, 1192 Forest Ave., Portland | https://www.globalshapers.org/hubs/portland |

 

THE DUDE FEST | Okay, here’s a disclaimer that would easily make many of my friends shake their head in dismay: I’ve never seen The Big Lebowski and I’m not drawn to the film in any way. I am, however, aware of the huge cult following this random comedy has had after all these years. Maybe you’re one of the cult members that quotes this movie all the time, orders White Russians ironically, and doesn’t bowl without attempting a Jeff Bridges’ impression. If so, assemble with your brethren during this costume party, trivia challenge and film screening of this “cultural phenomenon.” This event’s poised to have a fun and quirky atmosphere: something you can’t download on PirateBay.

| $5 | 8:00 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | http://www.portcitymusichall.com/ |

 

PHISHY FUN | Are you one of those poor souls that hasn’t found a local act worth leaving the house for? Do they all just seem too loud, weird and specific? Do their lyrics confuse or even slightly annoy you? Well, if you’re a newbie to the local music scene, or are just looking for a laid back performance of a grab-bag of genres, head out to PHOME for the Skosh show. Their name literally means “a little bit of everything,” and that’s what you can expect from these eclectic rockers from Buckfield. Don’t gamble on a band and settle for one type of sound. Funk up your life with Skosh instead.

| $7 | 8:00 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | www.portlandhouseofmusic.com/ |

 

CHEAP INK | Friday the 13th’s not all about bad luck. Especially when Lucky’s Tattoo Company is offering $13 dollar tattoos all day long. This doesn’t apply to custom pieces though — you have to choose from their big ol’ binder of small(ish) symbols. But hey, symbols are powerful and I’m sure there’s something there that resonates with you. Maybe it’s finally time to get that pair of red cherries tattooed on your lower back. At such a low price, it’s only fitting.

| $13 | ALL DAY | Lucky’s Tattoo Company, 102 Exchange St., Portland | 207.874.1313 |

 

SATURDAY, 14

 

HOW TO RESIST | Taking not just the outcome of last year’s election into consideration, but also the myriad of social injustices that have long been gestating in this country, and one realizes that now is truly the time to organize and defend our democracy. But first, we all need training to become effective allies, advocates for equality and impactful activists for peace. A series of educational seminars hosted by Peace Action Maine aims to do that by exploring the definition and appropriate use of nonviolent direct action. Attending this first training will arm you with the necessary knowledge needed to proceed along the dark road ahead. Godspeed.

| FREE | 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm | Maine Irish Heritage Center, 34 Gray St., Portland | https://www.warresisters.org/trainings-nonviolent-action |

 

SING FOR A CAUSE | Do you love cheap thrills? Or maybe just need a morale boost? Plenty of both are being offered this night, during a karaoke contest designed to raise money for the important work done at the Southern Maine Workers’ Center. If you’ve got a friend that needs to venture outside of their comfort zone, bring them along and make a pledge so they’ll be peer-pressured to sing any song of your choice. I know I’d throw down some money to see my friends attempt an Ariana Grande verse.  

| $10 | 7:00 pm | Southern Maine Worker’s Center, 68 Washington Ave., Portland | http://www.maineworkers.org/ |

 

THE POINTS MATTER | If you were a fan of the show Whose Line Is It Anyway, you’ll probably let a chuckle or two loose during this silly smackdown of a performance. Two improv troupes will take the stage and try to one-up each other during a witty battle for the audience's laughter. Will someone embarrass themselves dreadfully? Is Portland hiding the next Wayne Brady or Colin Mochrie? Only one way to find out.

| $12 | 7:30 pm | Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland | http://mayostreetarts.org/ |

 

8Days ColorBlind

PARTY PEOPLE WANTED | A soulful experience is planned for this night, but it needs some more wiggling bodies to make it a real good time. A talented, six-strong band called Color Blind promises to bring a non-stop party to the PHOME stage, complete with class, professionalism, and funky grooves.

| $10 | 8:00 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | http://www.portlandhouseofmusic.com/ |

 

8Days StrangeMachines

SPELL STRUCK | The Boston-based, musical magicians of Strange Machines are kicking off their year of high-energy performances by headlining in Portland! They’ll be blowing the doors off of Empire, with their dizzying cyclone of rock, funk, livetronica, reggae, pop, metal and jazz tunes. Wondering how they’re going to melt those seemingly disparate genres together? Me too. That’s why I jumped to the conclusion that they are indeed magicians. Fellow funk homies, Harsh Armadillo and Quad are also cashing in on the madness.

| $8 | 8:00 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | http://portlandempire.com/ |

 

SUNDAY, 15

 

POWERFUL SELF-CARE | Does life seem scarier nowadays? Have you ever just wanted to learn how to kick some ass? Or at the very least, protect your own? A fantastic series of classes at Hustle and Flow Studios has been quietly (but intensely) teaching locals a new way to take up space in the world: through the empowering skills of self-defense. Who knows what kind of weirdos might try to accost you during the thousands of interactions with strangers you’ll have in a lifetime. With this class via Prevention Action Change on body language, conditioning and strike and grab defenses, the streets will feel just a little bit safer.

| $35 | 12:30 pm | Hustle and Flow, 155 Brackett St., Portland | https://pacmainecom.wordpress.com/ |

 

PRIVACY PARTY | Snowden’s still laying low in Russia, but the bombshell he dropped years ago is still pertinent: we’re being watched online. Whether it be from scammers, identity thieves, trolls, hackers, South African princes with a fortune waiting for you, or even members of our own government, no corner of the Internet is safe from potential monitoring and exploitation. You can, however, protect yourself. Don’t click and type away in the vast cyberspace without using HTTPS and encryption softwares. If you’re out there hoarding illegally downloaded movies without at least using a Tor browser, you’re at risk. And you need to come to this CryptoParty to learn how to scan for threats and ensure your privacy online. And in the meantime, you need to run a system restore on your computer. Like now.

| FREE | 1:00 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland | https://www.fermentory.com/#home |

 

BURIED HEART | Deviate from the ordinary date-night experience and take your loved one to a soul-stirring classical performance of Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto. Your date will marvel at your creativity and newfound sense of class and culture. No more Slab pizzas and night’s at the Nickelodeon for you; you’re the kind of person that goes out to romantic piano concerts! No longer are they reserved for wealthy church-goers looking to feel fancy in the afternoon! All jokes aside, shows from the Portland Symphony Orchestra never fail to impress. How can they when they’re channeling the emotions from the profound works of master Frederick Chopin?

| $40-80 | 2:30 pm | Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland | https://tickets.porttix.com/

 

MONDAY, 16

 

REVOLUTION OF VALUES | If you’re one of those that tends to misquote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Facebook, or use him as a tool to further a backward/biased argument, it’s high time you learn full-scope of his message and subsequent movement. MLK was a revolutionary. He knew that America was in need of a focused radical revolution to break systems of oppression that didn’t just permeate through policy and law, but also shared values and culture. On MLK Day, the best thing you can do is learn about the man and the dream he shared with the world. Because the fight to actualize that dream is still raging on.

| $60 | ALL DAY | Maine NAACP, 510 Cumberland Ave., Portland | http://www.mlkportlandmaine.eventbrite.com/ |

 

HONOR HIM | David Bowie would have turned 70 this year, had cancer not took his life. Although his consciousness has passed on, his music and legacy will never die. Longtime fans of his genre-defining tunes and inspiring messages will converge on Flask Lounge for their 2nd Annual Bowie Tribute Night. Organizers encourage you show up in costume as your favorite Bowie incarnation.

| FREE | 8:00 pm | Flask Lounge, 117 Spring St., Portland | http://flasklounge.com/ |

 

BRAIN FLEX | Here’s a chance to test out if you’re really an endless reservoir of random bits of wisdom (and if you’ve got a low bar on what constitutes as wisdom). It’s an all out trivia night at Empire, but the folks there have pulled a couple stops to make it really feel like a game show. Participants will even get a buzzer! After gulping down a couple beers I’m sure you’ll enjoy having it in front of you. You may even feel important. If you miss the chance to compete or spectate, swing back around next Monday. It’s a weekly series.

| FREE | 9:00 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | http://portlandempire.com/ |

 

TUESDAY, 17

 

HISTORY BUZZ | Is there anything more random (in a good way) than drinking a beer in the place Longfellow once called home, and poring over old Portland maps and manuscripts? Join other learned fellows at this “Beer in the Garden” event, where libations and snacks are combined with special artifacts and historical atlases.

| $5 | 4:30 pm | Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress St., Portland | https://www.mainehistory.org/ |

 

THIS IS NUTS | The squirrels are onto something; acorns are actually nutritious and delicious. At least that what the folks at the Urban Farm Fermentory are trying to convince the general public. They’re so confident that you’ll think twice about eating acorns, that they’re hosting an event where you’ll sip cider, process the little oaky nuts into a flour and try them in a muffin form. Don’t they already seem much more palatable? Gather with the curious and check out this nutty affair.

| $15 | 5:00 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland | https://www.fermentory.com/#home |

 

WEDNESDAY, 18

 8Days TheTower

STRAP IN | Spend the evening with a sobering documentary. It’s an intense exploration of a historical tragedy you probably have never heard of: America’s first school shooting. Titled Tower, it’s combination of archival footage and rotoscope animation has earned it the accolade of “best documentary of the year,” in some circles. Tapping into the visceral fear the families felt on that day might be difficult; I advise you bring a friend.

| $8 | 7:00 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | http://www.space538.org/ |

 

THURSDAY, 19

 

#NOTMYPRESIDENT | The day of reckoning has come; Cheeto Jesus is about to assume the throne. Local activists who believe that Trump is anti-women, anti-equality and anti-science are combining forces for an all-day showcase of solidarity right underneath Lady Victory. Some will be quietly mourning the death of morality in America. Others will be chanting, marching and proudly displaying their resistance and anger. And others still will be singing and dancing reminding everyone that the “fight’s not over.” If you’re reading this and are fuming at the thought that millions don’t want to welcome an incompetent demagogue, and yet another loser of the popular vote into the Oval Office, than I gotta ask, “who are you dude?” Seriously, email me.

| FREE | ALL DAY | Monument Square, Portland |

 

8Days WhatAJoke

LAUGH IT OFF | Sometimes comedy can be a great form of therapy. I imagine many of you Portlanders will be either shouting your cords raw on the streets, or hiding in your home during the hours before Inauguration Day. But if you need to a form of escapism, some local comics have you got covered. They’re joining 23 cities across the country to host “What A Joke,” a show designed to make you laugh, and forget. Proceeds for this show will be donated to the Maine ACLU, to further their work protecting civil liberties. Comics include: Jordan Handren-Seavey, Connor McGrath, Jed Bloom, Ali Simpson, Jamie Roux, Krystal Kamenides, Sam Pelletier, and host Aharon Willows.

| $5 | 8:00 pm | Laugh Shack at Lincoln's, Market St., Portland |  http://www.whatajokefest.com/ |

Why did 200 Mainers take an icy plunge into Casco Bay?

On the last day of 2016, I perched myself on a snow-covered rock on the East End Beach to observe a peculiar sight: over 200 Mainers stripping down to their underthings and taking a plunge into the icy waters of Casco Bay.

The bold-n-cold participants were there for the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s annual Polar Bear Dip and 5K Race Event. Each paid a $35 registration fee; the money collected would be used to support the NRCM’s ongoing work to reduce pollution and carbon emissions here in Maine. So, in short, these Mainers shocked their systems to fight the effects of climate change and benefit environmental sustainability work across the state.

And shock their systems they did.

The dip started promptly at noon, encouraged by smiling onlookers, media people and folks in polar bear costumes jubilantly cheering them on. Nervous smiles and anxious laughter permeated through the crowd. Nips of “liquid courage” were exchanged to provide a temporary morale boost. The shivering started early. The temperature was a frosty 20 °F. But once the clock struck noon, it was time to undress.

Once the signal was given, the crowd of half-naked environmental activists braced themselves and dived into the 40-degree water. Screams from both young and old pierced through the air. Usually, polar dip enthusiasts don’t mention the involuntary screams, but they’re pretty much a given when emerging from frigid waters into even colder air. A polar plunger just can’t help but cry out in a panic and wave their arms wildly before running back to shore and into the warm embrace of a fresh towel. Although no one could truly know, some plungers described the feeling as the “closest thing to dying” they've felt. But the feeling afterward, of putting on warm dry clothes after a full-body freeze, was nothing short of euphoric.

Indeed, science has found some healthy benefits to shocking your body with ice water. They call it cold therapy. Taking an icy dip, especially after exercise like these 5K runners did, reduces swelling in muscles and flushes lactic acid out of the body. Once out of the water and warmed up, polar plungers repair their muscles stronger and faster from a surge of oxygenated blood.

So while these seemingly crazy Mainers raised money and awareness for the fight against climate change, they did their bodies a bit of a favor too.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine is our state’s leading nonprofit membership organization protecting, restoring, and conserving Maine’s environment, now and for future generations.

They work to decrease air and climate-changing pollution through energy efficiency and renewable energy sources; improve the quality of Maine’s rivers, lakes, and streams; conserve Maine lands, including our treasured North Woods; and, promote sustainable communities through initiatives that reduce toxic pollution and the impacts of waste.

  • Published in News

New Year's Resolutions for the City of Portland

Like most people do during the first couple weeks of a new year, I’ve been thinking about resolutions.

For some reason, I’m psychologically hardwired to think about bettering myself at the resetting of a unit of measuring time. I’m sure you’re having similar thoughts.

In fact, I know you are, because I asked many of you while casually strolling Portland’s streets after last week’s storm. Most of you responded as expected. You said that 2017 would be the year that you get in shape, read more books, save more money, finish school, create more art, or become more active in your community. Some of you said you plan on travelling more, which is always nice to hear, but all in all, you gave me some pretty standard resolutions. It seems that we’re all searching for the same things, really: happiness and gratification.

So while we’re all inspired to become better humans, and make 2017 a hell of a lot more bearable than 2016, let’s remember that we’re still players in a larger game. It’s easy to get caught up in our individual struggles and forget about our role in the community. Our actions affect others, and our resolutions might too. Instead of trying to win the rat-race, it’s time for us to make sure everyone has a fair start. It doesn’t seem right to make resolutions that are purely self-oriented. How can one truly promise themselves happiness, financial success, good health and actualization, when their neighbor’s struggling to secure basic needs? While we’re climbing to the top of Maslow’s pyramid, let’s not abandon the ones we left at the base. What’s that phrase that’s almost gone stale? We’re all in this together. 

 

Considering this, I asked various local figures last week to reflect on their role within our community, and give me a New Year’s resolution for the city of Portland. May they provide the fleeting, but potentially powerful feelings of optimism and renewal, we all crave so much during these strange times.

 

Let 2017 be the year that we force ourselves and our community leaders to stick to our resolutions, double down on our dreams, and make sure Portland is a welcoming, vibrant and opportunity-rich city for all. 

 

feature MayorEthanStrimling

Ethan Strimling, Mayor of Portland

“My resolution for the city would be to pass a bond to rebuild our four elementary schools. We need to pass the school bond because we need real change for the 7-year-old at Lyseth, who has to attend classes in a hallway. And the 8-year-old at Presumpscot, who has to put on his snow boots to leave the trailer he calls a classroom to go the restroom. And the 6-year-old at Reiche who can’t hear her teacher over the noise. And the 9-year-old at Longfellow who sits in a chair with tennis balls on the bottoms of its legs so he doesn’t scratch the asbestos tiles on the floor.”

On housing solutions: "[We need to] increase from 30 to 90 the number of days a landlord must provide prior to evicting a tenant without cause, ban discrimination against tenants who have housing vouchers, and increase the percent of housing that must be affordable in new housing developments (increase the inclusionary housing ordinance)."

 

feature HerbAdams

Herb Adams, politician, historian and member of the Parkside Neighborhood Association

“Portland's New Year resolutions should be to build affordable housing for an affordable city for average people. Condo developers and Trumpists can take care of themselves — and always do! For the rest of us, diversity, affordability and city greenery spell liveability, and in that, Portland can be rich.   

We also need to promote, preserve, protect, and expand Portland’s city parks — open green space will get Portland through times of no money better than money will get us through times of no parks.”

 

feature mollyadams photobyBrianBabylon

Molly Adams, journalist and editorial director of Grand State

“The city of Portland should make actual resolutions about rent control that is tied to local cost of living and minimum wage. Developers of large-scale projects should resolve to care just a bit about style over cost. Newcomers and young people should think beyond the peninsula for their housing. We should all pay more attention to the homeless. And we should all resolve to keep Portland the fun, friendly, unpretentious, liberal-ass city that it is by leaving our homes and loving public space.”

 

 

Robert Marcroft, Portland-based activist and social worker

“The city is tailoring itself to high-end renter folks who have a lot of privilege. It’s pushing people and businesses out that have been here for ages. There’s a high-end apartment building that’s going in within sight of the homeless shelter. ‘Scenic view,’ it’s absurd.

For a New Year’s resolution, the city needs to think critically about development, what it means for Portland and who it impacts. These market forces are happening and the city is bending their knees to it. The city should rethink their interactions with property developers. I'd like to see the city promote development that supports the working class, the people that drive this city. Portland should be a livable space for everyone.”

 

feature NickieSekera

Nickie Sekera, Fryeburg resident, member of Community Water Justice and local activist

“I would love to see Portland commit to increasing free drinking water accessibility in public spaces for residents and visitors. Making clean water readily available not only reduces our waste stream but also offers confidence that a humane and dignified existence, for all people, is still a priority and attainable. It makes no ecological sense for us to subscribe to the 'culture of convenience' of bottled water that is being promoted when we have the best tap water the world has to offer ... and why not offer the best of what Maine has to give.”

“A second resolution for the city of Portland would be to either dismantle the police force or demilitarize them and provide anti-racist training. If we wish to build our communities effectively, we need to take a step back and create an effective community policing system that is modeled differently. Hearing Portland's Chief emulate the language of war and war tactics in his work brings our global war culture to the streets of our own community and feel that is a bigger danger to our people than any handcuffed target.”

 

 feature DrewChristopherJoy

Drew-Christopher Joy, the Executive Director at the Southern Maine Workers' Center

"We believe that the City of Portland can and should become a model human rights city by prioritizing public health systems;  expanding tenants’ rights and creating affordable housing; ensuring living wages, safe working conditions, fair scheduling, paid sick leave, respect for all of Portland’s workers, and by protecting Portland’s immigrant communities from deportations and discrimination. We know that in the years ahead at the state and national level there will be attacks on our communities and on our human rights. We hope that Portland can demonstrate that there is an alternative form of government--one that puts human needs before private profits. Of course cities can not act on their own. Cities require the actions of its residents to make change. We encourage all of Portland’s people to become active in organizing for racial and economic justice."

 

feature LisaPohlmann2014

Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine

“Portland is Maine's leading green city. NRCM featured many of Portland's excellent sustainability initiatives in a report last year. I applaud their recent efforts to reduce the use of single use plastic bags and Styrofoam containers, and increase solar energy. For 2017, I'd love to see Portland move forward to make food composting work for everyone, and to foster more clean, efficient, energy improvements. Progress on a sustainable economy will always begin locally; that's true now more than ever.”

 

feature kennethlewis

Kenneth Lewis, pastor at Green Memorial AME Zion Church

“I resolve and encourage Portland to resolve to be a bridge builder by seeing and making connections among people who dedicate their time and energy to work for the common good, bringing out the best in others for the benefit of others.”

 

 

feature BishopDeeley

Bishop Robert P. Deeley, Roman Catholic Diocese

“A worthy focus of our efforts in 2017 would be to remember the lessons learned during the recently concluded Jubilee Year of Mercy. The many corporal and spiritual works of mercy that were carried out in our diocese were transformative experiences for those who reached out to those facing need, and a renewal of hope and a connection to the merciful love of God for those who received. I am deeply grateful to God for how I have witnessed our clergy, parishioners, and community members live out this message of the mercy of the Gospel in so many ways.

Though the jubilee year is over, join me in ensuring that its message and meaning carry on in 2017 and beyond. Be merciful to those in need, welcome immigrants and others who have come to our country seeking peace and a better life, recognize injustices and work to correct them, and defend the dignity of God’s gift of life. The year has reminded us to trust more deeply in God’s love for us and to turn more often to receive His mercy.

As a new year begins, let us commit to continuing to walk through that door by bringing love and mercy into our world.”

 

feature JudyKatzel 

Judy Katzel, Communications Officer at Catholic Charities

“My wish for Portland is that we continue to be an open, kind, and welcoming city for all who wish to make this home. That we embrace our similarities, honor our differences, and believe in our goodness. In 2017, I know that the kindness and generosity of our community will outpace the voices of fear and intolerance.

At Catholic Charities Maine, we often get calls asking: ‘What can I do to support the refugee community?’ The easy answer is: donate money! There is always a need to support new families with goods and services specific to their situations. The more complex answer involves personal action. If you are a business, consider hiring refugees who are here and eager to become self-sustaining. Be kind, tolerant, and patient with those who are new to our language and our culture. In the end, it will take us all working together to raise up the economy of our city and our state.”

 

feature PiousAli PhotoByJeffPackard

Pious Ali, Portland City Councilor At-Large

“My resolution for the city is to create more opportunities for everyone that lives here, especially our young people. To work both in- and outside government, to find a way to keep our young people here, but also attract more. We need to keep our young people from going away.”

feature DinahMinot

Dinah Minot, Executive Director of Creative Portland

“Our New Year’s resolution is to promote a culture of sharing and transparency. Collaborating closely, we will clearly define what Creative Portland can offer to the arts and culture community, and we will embrace Portland’s diversity by focusing on immigrant integration and cultural acceptance. We are excited to take a leadership role in a citywide Cultural Plan initiative, launching in mid-January with an illustrious steering committee of engaged community leaders to create a collective action plan to sustain the creative economy.”

 

Liz Pettengill, Director of Community Outreach at One Longfellow Square

“It would be wonderful for the city to make a resolution to find more ways to support the arts within the community, the artists that create them and the organizations that foster those artists. It’s these people and organizations that have helped Portland become so attractive nationally. It would be nice for the city to do what it can to allow the artists and the establishments that employ them to remain in the community, so they may continue to create and to help the city flourish.”

 

feature MarkSwann

Mark Swann, Executive Director at the Preble Street Resource Center

“In the New Year, Preble Street would like to see the city of Portland resolve to affirm the city's longstanding policy of ensuring that anyone experiencing homelessness in Portland will always have a safe place and a warm roof over their head. But more than that, we want the city to resolve to get people off mats on the floor, to treat people with dignity and respect, and to work to fix the fractured and overwhelmed shelter system while we simultaneously making housing available for all. We need to commit ourselves to being a city that is ruled by compassion and kindness.”

 

feature StephenCotreau 

Stephen Cotreau, Program Manager at the Portland Recovery Center

Opiate addiction/abuse is all of our problemIt does not change because the calendar does. It has been a focus for years now. The problem just keeps getting worse and worse. More kids dying all the time, less treatment available. We need detox and residential treatment. Supportive structured housing for those on medication-assisted treatment. The acuity of the folks battling addiction now with opiates is very high, [and] outpatient treatment is a waste of money. The community is affected adversely — [whether] you want to help or not you are paying a price. Higher medical costs, higher prices at the store, loss of a viable work force, the list is long. If we as a community want it to change we have to invest in change, not just talk about it. I personally feel that these kids are worth it. In recovery they are amazing.”  

 

feature BobFowler

Bob Fowler, Executive Director at the Milestone Foundation

“I'd say that my hope is that the Greater Portland Addiction Collaborative (GPAC) will be fully funded in 2017.”

 

feature CaseyGilbert

Casey Gilbert, executive director of Portland Downtown

“I think that a good New Year's resolution for the city of Portland would be to keep shining brightly and doing what we do best: being inclusive, creative and forward-thinking. In 2017, Portland Downtown's focus will be to deliver excellent programs and services to our stakeholders and the community and to make our events the best that they can be."

 feature JonMorse

Jon Morse, independent promoter and artist at Last Mercy Emissions

“I would advise that residents who are musically/artistically-inclined be mindful of the outstanding, underrated rehearsal spaces and concert venues that are so readily available in Portland (i.e. Grime Studios and Geno's Rock Club, respectively). Without them, the nightlife, music and arts scene here would surely suffer. No time like the present to give credit where credit is due — support today.”

 

The Phoenix Potpourri

potpourri zero exhibit

UNE’s Biddeford Campus Art Gallery presented ZERO, a new photography exhibit

A new photography exhibit examining the lives of the “disenfranchised and often invisible” people of Colombia is set to open on the University of New England’s Biddeford campus on January 25.

Titled ZERO, this black and white photography exhibit comes by way of Robert Pennington, an adept researcher of Colombia’s history with social stratification. According to Pennington, Latin America’s oldest democracy is home to the world’s longest-running civil war. After more than 52 years of conflict, it currently has 6.9 million internally displaced persons — more than any other country on the planet. Equally disturbing, says Pennington, is that few are even aware of the displaced population.

His new exhibition aims to give members of these marginalized communities a face and a voice.

 

 

One Tree Center received a grant to expand their technology

Last week, One Tree Center, a nonprofit focused on promoting social change through education, received a $4,500 grant from the Edward H. Davies Benevolent Fund of the Maine Community Foundation to access more technology and bolster communications.

“This grant enables us to better support our teachers with the tools they need to provide top-tier early childhood education,” said Virginia Dearani, founder and director of One Tree Center. “With new technology, we can better document and share our peace-based curriculum with educators across the country.”

 

Portland’s LEAAP Program will gain support from a charity New Year's Eve Gala

Portland’s Law Enforcement Addiction Advocacy Program, which works to address Maine’s opioid epidemic through education, community awareness, and the facilitation of treatment, will get a boost in the new year thanks to proceeds from the New Year’s Eve gala at Boone’s Fish House and Oyster Room.

If locals want to offer their support to city initiatives combating the opiate crisis, they can do so by paying for and enjoying a four-course dinner on New Year’s Eve.

 

 

Portland prepared its ice-skating ponds in time for winter break

Just in time for winter break, the city of Portland has finished prep on five outdoor ice-skating locations. The surfaces on these frozen ponds are now even, open, and safe to skate on. Locations include Deering Oaks Pond, Ludlow Pond (behind Deering High School), Breakwater Pond (Nason’s Corner), and the Riverside Golf Course rinks.

 

 

Gregory Nesbitt requested a new trial

Gregory Nesbitt, the landlord of the Noyes Street apartment, that caught fire and killed six people two years ago, did not spend Christmas behind bars. Originally he was sentenced to three months in jail, but after he requested a new trial earlier last week, his punishment was postponed. Nesbitt’s lawyer argued that his client was not given an important 2013 state document detailing the size of the windows on the property until after Nesbitt was convicted.

The court has yet to make a decision on Nesbitt’s request for a new trial, in which he hopes to erase the single charge against him.

 

 

Ahram Halal Market vandalized on Christmas Eve

Police are currently investigating at act of vandalism that occurred on Christmas Eve at the Ahram Halal Market on Forest Avenue. Witnesses told police they saw a man wearing a black hoodie smash in the shop's six large windows with a baseball bat around 11:00 pm.

This was the same halal market owned by the man that was investigated earlier this year by federal authorities for suspected welfare fraud.

 

 

Spike in accidents along I-295 may lead to a new speed limit

News of speedy drivers, accidents, congested traffic and icy conditions on the stretch of Interstate 295 north of Portland seemed to come in almost every week of 2016.

Earlier this month, The Portland Press Herald reported that the number of traffic accidents on that stretch of road jumped nearly 32 percent in 2015, compared with 2013, the last year the speed limit was increased to 70 mph. They also found that there were 354 accidents on that stretch of highway in 2015. Crashes in 2016 are set to exceed this number.

Just this month, I-295 was host to a string of accidents, including one involving 11 vehicles.

The Maine Department of Transportation is currently exploring ways to make this section of highway safer and more efficient.

Meanwhile, state Senator Rebecca Millett, who travels that section of highway at least 4 times a week, proposed lowering the speed limit back down to 60 mph. She sees a connection between a high volume of traffic, a higher speed limit and an increased number of accidents.

 

 

Senator Angus King signs letter urging Donald Trump to lower drug costs

According to The Associated Press, Maine’s Independent senator Angus King joined 18 Democratic Senators last week in writing a letter to Trump, that called for him to work with lawmakers to focus their efforts on lowering prescription drug costs through “bold administrative and legal actions.”

In the letter, King suggested that the Secretary of Health and Human Services should negotiate Medicare drug prices and that drug companies should disclose more information about costs to combat price gouging.

  • Published in News

Let's Party: A (Completely Arbitrary) Ranking of New Year's Events in Maine

We imagine you've got an idea how to wind this year to a close. But in case you're still on the fence, we at the Phoenix have ranked ten weird-ass options in and around the city, using the criteria we look for in making an otherworldly night.

 

feature theredcarpeteventGo all out at the Red Carpet Event on Thompson’s Point

This New Year’s Eve extravaganza is dubbed by organizers Felker x Derose as the biggest and most exciting in the city. That's quite the hype. Considering the party will be held inside a warehouse with ceilings 40 feet high, with dance music exploding through speakers courtesy of MIJO from Hot 107.7, and acrobats from Circus Maine flying through the air, you might be inclined to believe them.

The Red Carpet Event beckons you to welcome the New Year with an explosion of the senses. You’ll be tasting a bunch of expertly crafted cocktails. You’ll be watching some sexy new circus performances and trippy visual effects from VJ Foo. You’ll be hearing the hottest tracks from Be See, Mike Clouds, Max Felker, Sparxsea, and Superstar Freddy. Depending on your social charisma, you’ll be feeling the warmth of another person, as you bump-n-grind with a loved one or a friendly reveler. Not sure what you’ll be smelling, but we're confident this exclusive warehouse party filled with beautiful people and heart-pumping party vibes will make you not care. | $15-30 | 9:00 pm to 2:00 am | Circus Maine, 4 Thompson's Point, Portland 

 

Intensity- 9/10 It’s going to be big, but it can only get so big.

Drama - 5/10 Dark, foggy dance floors; the setting of any good drama.

Likelihood to make a mistake - 7/10 If bumping into gyrating strangers counts as a mistake.

Darkness- 5/10 The darkness is balanced by an onslaught of flashing strobes.

Mood - 10/10 Dancing. Booze. Mesmerizing performances. This is what New Year’s Eve is all about.

Degrees from the edge of your comfort zone - 8/10 If hip-hop, electronica, and ready-to-party attire makes you uncomfortable.

Drink selection - 6/10 Your standard selection. Nothing too crazy.

Music quality - 7/10 If you love the work of these local rappers, DJs, and emcees.

Food quality - 3/10 Don’t come starving. Bring some snacks.

feature TIQA2

Settle in for a low-key, romantic night at TIQA Mediterranean

If you’d prefer an intimate but lively night with a loved one or some close friends, head over to the TIQA Mediterranean Restaurant to end 2016 with some mild pampering and an exquisite meal. There, face to face with the people that matter in your life, you can sip prosecco and have an elevated discussion on why 2016 sucked, over an elegant four-course Pan-Mediterranean feast that tantalizes taste buds.

For $55 per person, guests will enjoy this drool-worthy menu: grilled marinated flank steak with cauliflower parmesan puree, spicy roasted broccoli and bacon fig jam; and pan-seared scallops with vanilla bean parsnip puree, roasted root vegetables and crispy brussels sprouts. Sounds like culinary excellence. Everything’s made from scratch from locals who believe that dining is a ritual, not just an act of sustenance. | $55 | 5:00 pm to 1:00 am | TIQA, 327 Commercial St., Portland  

 

Intensity - 2/10 Does the menu count?

Drama - 2/10 Unless a waiter drops your entree or a heated political argument erupts, don’t expect much.

Likelihood to make a mistake - 7/10 We hope you know which wine pairs well with scallops.

Darkness - 5/10 Just the right amount.

Mood - 9/10 Big points for mood; TIQA’s a beautiful restaurant.

Degrees from the edge of your comfort zone - 7/10 We hope you brushed up on fine-dining etiquette.

Drink selection - 9/10 They’ve got pretty much anything you could ask for. Plus prosecco!

Music quality - 5/10 There will be live music, but the act’s a surprise, so the jury's out.

Food quality - 10/10 The food’s the main event here; it doesn’t get much better than this.

 

Arrive in style at The Great Gatsby Party at the Italian Heritage Center

If you’ve got some spiffy dress clothes, circa 1920s, that you’ve been dying to show off, this party would be the place to do it. Got a cloche hat? How about a white dress with sequins? Ironically, tonight's guests will don these classic bits of Americana at the Italian Heritage Center. They'll be there for a Great Gatsby-themed party featuring decor from the Roaring Twenties (a time some of us would love to escape to nowadays), with its new technologies, blossoming jazz music, relative peace, cultural edge and politics imbued with a sense of morality and normalcy. If time machines existed, how many of us would zip back to that era where artistic expression was society's focus and battles for equality were won more regularly?

So break out your zoot suits and flappers (but seriously, who owns them?) and grab a partner that's willing to attempt the Charleston. | $55 | 6:30 pm to 1:00 am | Italian Heritage Center, 40 Westland Ave., Portland 

Intensity - 4/10 Despite the theme, expect a low-key night.

Drama - 3/10 Unless an Al Capone shows up, committed to staying in character.

Likelihood to make a mistake - 7/10 Seriously, you better know how to do the Charleston.

Darkness - 3/10 Despite the speakeasy vibes, expect the room to be well-lit.

Mood - 7/10 Themed parties are fun, even if they’re held in a nondescript event space.

Degrees from the edge of your comfort zone - 6/10 Everyone here will likely be older strangers.

Drink selection - 7/10 Basic cocktails, beer, and champagne: the usual.

Music quality - 5/10 It’s either going to be period appropriate, a Canadian ska band, or a Swedish metal band.

Food quality - 6/10 Average appetizers, but points for a dessert buffet.

feature MJswinebar

Ring in the New Year at MJ’s Wine Bar

This party’s either for wine freaks or just good-natured adults who want to party like adults do: respectfully and with an ounce of class. Inside MJ’s cozy interior, guests are invited to sample some of the best sparkling wines Portland has to offer. Ten sparkling wines will be offered by the glass, priced at $6, $7, $8, $9, $10, $11, $12, $13, $14, and $15 respectively. For the curious, drop down $35 and you’ll get a half glass of all ten. The folks at MJ’s call it “shoot the flute.” How fun!

The best part about this night is that you get all the basic elements of a party (food, drinks, and live music) at no cost to you. So pop in and out without being taken advantage of. | NO COVER | 6:00 pm to 1:00 am | MJ's Wine Bar, 1 City Center, Portland 

Intensity - 5/10 There’s a DJ scheduled from 10 pm to 1 am, so we’ll see.

Drama - 3/10 Depends how much you're drinking. Or how much of a "wine expert" your friend is. 

Likelihood to make a mistake - 6/10 Hope you know when to swish and when to swirl. Just kidding, you'll be doing neither. 

Darkness - 4/10 Not quite.

Mood - 8/10 Fantastic. Cozy with a touch of flirty. 

Degrees from the edge of your comfort zone - 5/10 Even if you’re not a wine person, MJ’s makes you feel at home.

Drink selection - 6/10 They’ve certainly got a well-stocked bar, but tonight’s about the wine.

Music quality - 5/10 Let’s hope you’ve got the same tastes as the DJ.

Food quality - 3/10 Very light fare.

 

feature thedappergents

Get classy with the Dapper Gents at the Black and White Party

Portland’s biggest Irish pub is gearing up to be the place for a raucous good time on New Year’s Eve. The folks at Ri Ra’s are planning their biggest party yet, with DJ Tiny Dancer spinning hits upstairs, and the Dapper Gents performing a full set downstairs. Have you seen the Dapper Gents perform? They’re dapper AF, of course, and will surely get you wiggling out of your seat and dancing to covers of popular hits and original blues-rock-folk tunes. Be a good sport and dress to follow the night’s “black and white” theme, will ya? Just don't show up in a tux, or you'll likely be overdressed. | $100 | 10:00 pm to 2:00 am | Ri Ra's, 72 Commercial St., Portland

Intensity - 8/10 It’s going to get pretty loud.

Drama - 7/10 Should you sit and sip, or should you dance?

Likelihood to make a mistake - 7/10 Ri Ra's is pretty close-quarters, so know how to move through a crowd.

Darkness - 6/10 Dimly lit, but large windows overlook the ocean for a nice moonlit view.

Mood - 8/10 Vibrant, wild Irish party vibes here. 

Degrees from the edge of your comfort zone - 7/10 Unless you thrive in loud, crowded bars.

Drink selection - 8/10 Screw champagne, order a Guinness or whiskey.

Music quality - 8/10 The Dapper Gents are party veterans and crowd caterers.

Food quality - 8/10 Hearty pub food, free appetizers, and a scrumptious dessert buffet.

 

 feature comedyat33elmwood

Laugh in the New Year with comedians in Westbrook

Want to skip out on the crowds and party off-peninsula? Maybe avoid some unwanted drama from people you know will be milling around the Old Port? Venture out to Portland’s forgotten cousin, Westbrook, for a New Year’s Eve filled with comedy. (Plus, free convenient parking, which somehow seems like a luxury these days.)

At the new-American restaurant 33 Elmwood, comedians John Ater, Tuck Tucker, and Josh Day will help you ring in the New Year with a positive start, and if they’re good, some gut-busting laughter. Their themes vary greatly from “Mainer comedy” to self-deprecating stories, to sometimes just dry, cynical wit. Whichever way they deliver it, the material can help you pretend 2016 was just one big joke. | $15 | 8:30 pm to 1:00 am | 33 Elmwood Restaurant, 33 Elmwood Ave., Westbrook 

Intensity - 2/10 Nah, nothing too crazy here.

Drama - 5/10 Will drunken hecklers arrive?

Likelihood to make a mistake - 2/10 It’s Westbrook, come be yourself.

Darkness - 4/10 The spotlight’s on the comedians.

Mood - 8/10 Laid back and chill; just like home!

Degrees from the edge of your comfort zone - 2/10 Unless you're easily offended by jokes.

Drink selection - 7/10 Signature cocktails, craft beer, and nice champagne.

Music quality - 1/10 If you’re looking for a concert, keep looking.

Food quality - 7/10 Because who doesn’t love fried brussels sprouts on New Year’s? Don't worry, there are plenty of options. 

 

feature gorillafingerdub

Let the good times roll with Gorilla Finger in Kennebunk

Forget the follies of 2016, and usher in the joys and promises a new year might bring with an unconventional but fitting genre of music: reggae. The Gorilla Finger Dub band is taking over Pedro’s restaurant in Kennebunk to do what they do best: smear some positive vibes and spread the love through their dub-style rock music with a roots reggae tinge. Is there a better way to honor Harambe than partying with the jam-masters of Gorilla Finger? It’s time to feel alive. | NO COVER, BUT BUY FOOD | 9:30 pm to 12:30 am | Pedro's, 181 Port Rd., Kennebunk  

Intensity - 2/10 Calm down, it’s just a restaurant.

Drama - 2/10 Gorilla Finger’s all about spreading that love, mon.

Likelihood to make a mistake - 3/10 Not much room to dance and fail, so you’re good.

Darkness - 6/10 Dimly lit and cozy.

Mood - 8/10 Reggae music in a Mexican restaurant? Intriguing.

Degrees from the edge of your comfort zone - 3/10 Reggae music’s innocuous.

Drink selection - 5/10 Fuck it, have a margarita.

Music quality - 6/10 Roots reggae and dub-style rock. THAT’S IT.

Food quality - 9/10 Usher in Trump’s America with hearty helpings of Mexican cuisine.

 

 

Break a sweat with trampolines and black lights at Get Air Portland

Are you just a goofball that would trade drunken revelry and flirtatious advances for some good old fashioned physical fun? Do you want to spend the holiday in your socks? Then spend New Year’s Eve at the Get Air Portland trampoline park, and embrace a break from the typical. Don’t worry about what to wear — there are too many black lights, lasers, and high-flying hijinks to care! No midnight kisses for you, if you’ll be jumping mid-air! Welcome the new year with sweaty brows and smelly feet. | $22 | 10:00 pm to 1:00 am | Get Air Portland, 921 Riverside St., Portland 

Intensity - 9/10 Have you tried dancing on a trampoline? Don't. 

Drama - 8/10 Between the kids, parents, and staff monitoring safety? Yeah, expect some drama.

Likelihood to make a mistake - 7/10 Plenty of chances to embarrass yourself here. But then again, who cares?

Darkness - 7/10 Remember your college days with all the blacklights.

Mood - 8/10 A unique one, that’s for sure!

Degrees from the edge of your comfort zone - 8/10 If things get too crazy, just kick back at watch the ball drop on the big screen.

Drink selection - 1/10 Water’s good, right?

Music quality - 6/10 All the pop hits you love to hate.

Food quality - 1/10 No food here, sorry.

 

feature OOBBonfire 

Party hard on the beach at OOB’s end of the year bash

Contrary to OOB's usual reputation, the Last Blast Beach Bash is not about drinking the night away and starting 2017 with a drunken, regret-filled stupor. No, this family-friendly party might be one you’ll actually remember. If, that is, you're able to pace yourself like the good folk around you; about a thousand are expected to show up. 

This all ages party injects a last breath of life into Old Orchard Beach before it completely shuts down for the season. People will be tossing their Christmas trees for a huge bonfire on the beach. Marshmallows will be roasted over fire-pits. Kettle corn will be popped. Cotton candy will be spun. DJ Joeyoke will drop some dance-heavy beats on the pier. Even the carousel will be spinning inside Palace Playland — the only one open in Maine during the winter!

It’s a unique night where adults can still have some light, booze-fueled fun, but the kids can join too! | VARIED | 6:00 pm to 2:00 am | Old Orchard Beach

Intensity - 8/10 Points for the pyrotechnics and Christmas trees on fire.

Drama - 7/10 With a thousand attendees, who knows what will happen?

Likelihood to make a mistake - 2/10 As long as you know where to park, you’ll be fine.

Darkness - 8/10 As dark as a night lit solely by arcade lights and bonfires.

Mood - 7/10 Festive. Exciting. Crowds filled with flushed cheeks and wide smiles.

Degrees from the edge of your comfort zone - 2/10 You’ve been doing this sort of thing for a while now.

Drink selection - 10/10 Alcohol for the adults. Hot cocoa for the kids.

Music quality - 3/10 To be honest, meh.

Food quality - 10/10 The food’s as varied and delicious as the 10 restaurants open in the area.

 

 feature duffysmudermyster

Solve a murder mystery during this New Year’s Eve dinner  

After such a bloody and violent year, it’s only appropriate that you cap it off with a murder mystery. That is, of the performance theatre variety. We all need a dose of levity, and volunteer actors hope to bring it to Duffy’s Tavern in Old Orchard Beach for a night of deductive reasoning and humor.

Organizers say this is a show for those that don’t want to waste their night looking for parking in the cold and would rather set up roots in a ballroom for food and theater, before retiring early and watching the ball drop from the comfort of their own home. Simple, relaxing, yet strange enough to be exciting. | $25-55 | 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm | Duffy's Tavern, 168 Saco Ave., Old Orchard Beach 

Intensity - 6/10 Fake murder and stuffy ballrooms.

Drama - 9/10 It’s literally a drama.

Likelihood to make a mistake - 2/10 Just sit, wine and dine.

Darkness - 6/10 Strategically lit.

Mood - 6/10 A mood of sorts.

Degrees from the edge of your comfort zone - 2/10 Dinner and storytelling, nothing out of the ordinary here.

Drink selection - 9/10 Full selection of wine, beer, and champagne.

Music quality - 2/10 Not much apart from the general ambiance.

Food quality - 10/10 Three course meal and a four-entree buffet.

  • Published in Features

The Phoenix Potpourri

Maine made history with electoral college vote, amidst protests

Last Monday, when Maine’s four Electoral College electors met in Augusta, they made history. For the first time since 1828, Maine split its Electoral College votes.

Despite rumors that some Republicans would vote against Trump, he received one vote and Democrat Hillary Clinton received three.

In a symbolic move, elector David Bright secretly cast his ballot for the Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, but was ruled out of order by the Electoral College President Betty Johnson.

Meanwhile, outside the State House, large groups of anti-Trump protesters clashed with his supporters. Shouting chants, the Trump supporters gathered by the GOP headquarters and told reporters they were there to “ensure the integrity of the Electoral College.” The anti-Trump protesters said they had no hope that the Electoral College would overrule Trump’s victory, but despite this, they wanted their presence seen and grievances heard.

 

Portland city council approved a new office to connect immigrants with jobs

In their final meeting of the year, the Portland city council voted the Office of Economic Opportunity into existence. The new office’s function is to connect immigrants, who might be fearing discrimination, with businesses and services that could potentially jump-start their career. Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling spoke during the meeting and said that the new office could do more for the city than anything done in the past year. Maine’s notorious for its aging and dwindling workforce, but many believe hiring immigrants is the key to economic vitality.

However, for now, the city needs to still figure out how the office will be paid for. The office will have a start-up budget of $260,000, and $165,000 from that budget still needs to be found through grants.

 

Catholic Charities reflected on a year of assisting refugees

potpourri Tarlan

The director of refugee and immigration services at Catholic Charities Maine, Tarlan Ahmadov, reflected on a year of helping people adjust to their new lives in Maine. He said that the struggles of refugees are ones you might expect — learning a new language, getting used to American ways, and simply figuring out the daily tasks of living, but most Mainers don’t realize that foreigners are so grateful for a safe place to live, that they typically welcome these new challenges, over the ones they faced in their former homes.

Catholic Charities has provided refugee resettlement services in Maine for 40 years. Currently, more than 20 million refugees are waiting and less than 1% of those will be resettled in a safe country. Here in Maine, Catholic Charities provided resettlement services to 623 primary refugees, a number that Ahmadov described as a “small drop in the bucket.”

“In a state like Maine, with an aging population and slow economic growth we’ve seen how refugees can help revitalize communities and provide job support to area businesses,” said Ahmadov in an interview with the Phoenix. “When we invest in our refugee population we are investing in the future of Maine — and I foresee a big return on that investment. They simply have come too far to give up now.”

UNE received a $600,000 grant to develop scholarship and loan repayment program

Delta Dental Plan of Maine awarded a $600,000 grant to UNE’s College of Dental Medicine, to be used for their scholarship and loan repayment program. Currently, over 250 students are enrolled in the dental college.

“Delta Dental Plan of Maine has been a vital and committed partner to the College of Dental Medicine,” said Dean Jon Ryder. “This grant will provide dedicated financial resources to students and graduates so they can practice in regions where dental care is currently difficult for residents to obtain. We are immensely grateful for their support.”

 

City Manager set to receive a $18,500 raise

Last week, the Portland City Council voted to give City Manager Jon Jennings a 12 percent raise of $18,500, bringing his total annual salary up to $166,500. That’s about $3,200 a week.

The raise is made up of a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment, a 5 percent merit raise and a 5 percent market adjustment, which makes sure Jennings’ pay is comparable to other city staff in New England. Jennings’ salary is the largest of any municipal manager in the state and over twice what LePage earns each year.

The news didn’t jive well with the general public on social media, with many calling it “excessive.” Locals wrote online that “if Jennings’ is getting a cost of living raise, he’s “doing a lot better than the rest of us.”

Over the past 25 years, breweries in Maine skyrocketed

 

If you’ve ever felt that Maine is filled to the brim with federally licensed breweries, you’re not wrong. Last week, the Bangor Daily News reported that since 1991, that number of breweries in Maine has jumped 3,200 percent. According to the BDN report, that number is in line with national trends and Maine has about 1 brewery for every 13,428 people.

Just here in Portland, a city often dubbed by online pubs like The Matador Network as the “biggest craft beer city in America,” over 25 breweries are in operation.

 

Bishop Deeley encouraged students to live faith, not be “couch potatoes”

 

During an Advent Mass event at Cheverus High School, that brought students, families, and faculty together, Bishop Robert P. Deeley reminded the crowd what the Christmas season is all about.

As he spoke to the studentry during his homily, Bishop Deeley urged them to care about world affairs and live out their faith by coming together. The bishop told the students it was the same guidance that Pope Francis gave young people at last summer’s World Youth Day in Poland.

Referencing the Pope, Bishop Deeley asked students not be “couch potatoes” but rather “active players in the field.”

“We need to care for one another,” said Bishop Deeley. “We need to serve one another. God comes to us in Jesus to assure us of his love but also to remind us that love binds us to all those whom God loves, and that is, of course, all the people of the world, particularly those who are in need or suffering anywhere in the world, whether in Aleppo in Syria or in Portland in Maine. Remember, then, what Pope Francis called you, and all young people to do: know in your heart God’s love for you and bring it to others.”

  • Published in News

A Year in Review: The biggest local news stories of 2016 and why they mattered

If 2016 could be categorized with a film genre, it’d be some kind of horror, thriller, disaster movie hybrid, the kind of movie that builds tensions and anxiety throughout but doesn’t end with a satisfying or positive twist. Instead, 2016 the movie toyed with our emotions and instilled fear, confusion and rage in those who saw it unfold.

 

Reflect briefly on some of this past year’s events. Cancer took David Bowie. Opioids killed Prince. Britain pulled out of the EU. The effects of climate change and man-made ventures wreaked havoc on the environment. Islamic terrorists attacked France, again. The Syrian government and Western complacency destroyed Aleppo, along with thousands of innocent lives. A huge earthquake hit Fukushima, spilling radioactive waste into the ocean. And of course, here in America, we witnessed the rise of Donald Trump, which, regardless of his true personal opinions, emboldened US racism and exposed this country’s nasty, xenophobic underbelly.

 

If 2016 were a movie, not many good guys would save the day in it. No heroics. No happy endings. Just endless scenes of senseless violence and political turmoil. Fidel Castro survived hundreds of assassination attempts, but even he couldn't survive 2016.

 

So as we look back on a year that innumerable people have dubbed online as the “worst year ever,” we must ask ourselves, what have we learned from all the turmoil?

 

In order to answer this effectively, and without the risk of losing our collective minds, we must focus our query locally. Here at The Phoenix, we’ll spare you a rehashing of the depressing news that made headlines nationally, and just re-cap the ones closer to home. You’ll likely find there are some interesting parallels between what dominated the local news cycles this year, and ongoing social and political issues nationally, within this feature that outlines the most important stories that appeared in Maine media. As we look back on the biggest bits of news that shaped our Maine communities in 2016, let’s try to understand why they mattered.

 

Then, and only then, can we move on from the horror movie that was 2016, and hope for a sequel that features a more productive plot, diverse voices and the happy ending we yearn for.

 

The Opiate Epidemic Continued to Ravish Our State

 feature policechief

"People are dying," said Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck during the Portland Community Opiate Forum last April. 

This year, Mainers once again had to grapple with this disturbing reality: opiates kill an average of one person in this state, every day. The opiate epidemic only worsened this year, and claimed 286 victims from January to September of 2016. Chances are, most Mainers know somebody affected by an addiction to prescription opioids or their manufactured, deadlier cousin fentanyl. As Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said starkly last April, “people are dying.”

 

Has any progress been made this past year?

 

Apart from the relentless efforts of organizations like Milestone, the Portland Recovery Center and the Portland Needle Exchange — which are already operating at full capacity — not much. Whether or not places like the Needle Exchange and the India Street Health Clinic, which offer vital free services to addicts, are even going to stay open past their lease of June 30th 2017, is uncertain. A bill was passed last April, that imposed restrictions and strengthened monitoring of prescription opioids, but other than that, not much has happened to curb opioid abuse through state and federal policies. Meanwhile, local news tended to focus on the whos and whats of the issue, instead of the hows and whys.

 feature heroin

A heroin bust photographed in 2011. 

Dr. Lisa M. Letourneau from the Maine Public Health Association told The Phoenix that opioid overuse and addiction was one of the biggest issues of 2016. She stressed that it’s not somebody else's problem, it’s Maine’s problem.

 

“Addiction is a chronic illness, not a moral failing, and like any other chronic illness, it needs treatment,” said Dr. Letourneau. “One of the biggest challenges that we face in this horrific epidemic is the lack of access to evidence-based treatments.”

 

There were small victories in this exhausting fight. In August, Attorney General Janet Mills equipped police officers across the state with Narcan, a life-saving overdose antidote. We passed a law to strengthen the monitoring of prescription drugs. And the Maine Medical Association pushed hard to provide expanded access to suboxone for those in rehabilitation.

 

Many community forums were hosted around this issue — including one highly unproductive town hall event. But as mouths flapped and commentators and newswriters deliberated over whether or not LePage’s comments were racist, people continued to succumb to addiction’s deadly grip. It was important when the ACLU of Maine proved LePage’s racially based claims of how heroin enters the state to be inaccurate, but ultimately, it distracted us from the issue at hand; addiction is colorblind.  

 

Reflecting back on a year's worth of tragic stories around this issue, we collectively learned that opiate addiction doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone. We learned that it destroys lives rapidly. We learned that recovery is a long, (sometimes costly) process that pulls addicts from work, makes them feel miserable, alienates them from family and ostracizes them from society. And that’s if addicts actually receive aid. Because right now, Maine doesn’t have adequate enough resources to serve the 30,000 people that unsuccessfully sought drug treatment in the past year.

 

“There have been many meetings, panels, discussions about the opiate crisis,” wrote Stephen Contreau, the program manager at the Portland Recovery Center in an email exchange with The Phoenix. “There was 'emergency' funding from the legislation. All of this talk of funding and we do not have any more help 'on the ground' than we did a year ago. More kids have died this year than ever before.”

feature overdosevigilLocals gathered in Monument Square last August to honor and remember those that lost their lives to drug overdoses.  

For addicts, their families and those that work to try and ameliorate their struggle, 2016 was a tough year.

 

“We need help,” said Contreau. “We are losing a generation. There is strong recovery and it is possible. People often need a bridge of help to get there. We have no bridge.”

 

Protests and Social Movements Demanded Change

 feature antiTrumpProtest

Hundreds of Mainers, inspired by national outrage, protested the rise of Trump this year, both before and after his election victory. 

This past year, Mainers gathered in great numbers to exercise their right to protest and publicly air their grievances.

 

After being forced to contend with a myriad of social issues, including racial inequality, environmental negligence, misogyny, reproductive rights and a dysfunctional electoral college, people across America took to the streets and demanded change. They centered their demonstrations in towns like Portland, Lewiston, Augusta and Bangor.

 

The first major protests in Maine kicked off in April after city manager Jon Jennings announced a new budget that would eliminate the India Street Public Health Center and transfer its clients to the privately owned Portland Health Community Center in Parkside. A municipally run facility, India Street provided vital health services to low-income residents, including over roughly 275 patients receiving Positive Health Care for HIV-related illnesses. After a number of protests on the steps of City Hall, marches, and a petition campaign that collected more than 2,000 signatures, the closure of the free health clinic was canceled, for now. From this, we learned that sometimes the power of the protest does work.

 blacklivesmatter PhotoCredittoWCSH6

Protestors blocked the Commercial Street in Portland last July, demanding the Police Chief declare that black lives matter. 

Local movements continued after being inspired by the echoed national outrage over unlawful police killings of black citizens. In July, about a hundred people blocked an intersection on Commercial Street in Portland to, in part, demand that Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck declare that black lives matter. The protest, though largely peaceful at first, became heated after a man, after counter-protesting the group for several minutes, drove his vehicle slowly through a line of activists that had linked arms to block his exit. Shouts and chants rang through the air for hours. By the end of the night, the Portland police had arrested 18 people for obstructing a public way. Some accused the police department of discrimination after they arrested people of color first, and forced some of them to remove their hijabs for photos.

 

Black Lives Matter’s unofficial local arm, the Portland Racial Justice Congress, organized a couple more protests in Portland since the arrests (and eventual release on bail money), before focusing the bulk of their activism towards racial justice education at the University of Southern Maine.

 feature waterprotest

Environmental activists gathered outside the courtroom to protest a ruling that gave Nestle unfettered access to Fryeburg's aquifers for the next 45 years.

Other Maine-based social movements focused on issues with water rights. Locals stood on public corners in Bangor and Portland angry that Nestle had gained unfettered access to the Fryeburg water supply (via Poland spring) for the next 45 years, and the (yes, still ongoing) situation at Standing Rock — where indigenous people are literally fighting against a pipeline being built through their natural water supply.

 

But nothing inflamed the people’s right to protest more than the rise of Donald Trump.

 

Long before Trump got elected, locals gathered to protest against ideals they feel he embodies: sexism, racism, nationalism, xenophobia, homophobia and a care-free, anti-globalist attitude toward world affairs.

 feature TrumpProtest

When Donald Trump first visited Portland for a campaign rally, his supporters clashed with protestors outside the Westin Hotel. 

Trump visited Maine three times this past year (once in Bangor, and twice in Portland) and each time he was met by the crowds of jeering folk who would cost him three electoral votes. Some got arrested for removing Trump campaign signs in their neighborhoods. And some protesters actually got the exposure they sought after standing and holding up pocket constitutions during a Portland Trump rally and going viral on Twitter. From that, we learned that a simple gesture, when amplified by social media, can make a powerful statement.

 

When Trump eventually won the election, it didn’t snuff out the fire burning inside Maine’s protestors; it added oil.

 

Mainers joined millions across the country to chant “Not My President,” and “Love Trumps Hate.”

 

Over the year, countless different opinions on the effectiveness and overall impact of protests were thrown out there. Trump supporters called the protesters hypocrites. Some locals scoffed at the movements, claiming that young people don’t have the background to preach about oppression.  Older, privileged locals muttered “this will all die down soon,” under their breath while passing by anti-Trump protests in Monument Square. Friends were blocked on Facebook. Arguments at family dinner tables erupted. The protesters did garner plenty of support this year though, in the form of messages and shares online, donations to organizations they advocated for, and, at the very least, honks of agreement from locals driving by. Through witnessing a year’s worth of clashes between many different social and political perspectives, we re-learned a lot about American values and identities.  

 

If nothing else, these protests (and counter-protests) showed Maine just how culturally divided the coastal towns and rural communities are, from true mutual understanding and equality.  

 

LePage Sparked Many Dramas and Squabbles

 feature lepage

Paul LePage made national headlines this past year, as "America's Craziest Governor." 

LePage made the news almost every week in 2016 — but we already know that’s not a good thing.

 

After an exhaustive amount of controversial remarks and actions, LePage earned a description by The Washington Post as “completely unhinged,” and a label from Politico as “America’s Craziest Governor.” The comedian and political commentator John Oliver, host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, featured him on a segment titled “People Who Somehow Got Elected,” spotlighting the governor as “a state-level preview of what a Trump presidency might look like.”

 

Locals have made continuous efforts to disassociate themselves with the ideas, policies and divisive opinions that dominated headlines in Maine this year because of LePage. Although LePage has a long history of displaying racial animus and divisive opinions, he really outdid himself this year. How can we forget his eloquence when he challenged a Westbrook lawmaker on voicemail to “prove that he’s a racist” and said that he “needs him to, just friggin already?” Let’s go over the biggest LePage outbursts that offended and made us cringe in 2016.  

 

In 2016, Governor Paul LePage: called people of color “the enemy” in the drug trade, reduced the opiate epidemic to people named D-Money and Smoothie coming into the state and impregnating young white girls, declared that the guillotine should be brought back to execute drug dealers, vetoed a bill that would allow pharmacists to distribute Narcan without a prescription, left a profanity-laden voicemail for Drew Gatting, tried to stamp out both legal, and recreational marijuana initiatives, endorsed Donald Trump, flipped out over a silent student protest, attempted a withdrawal from the federal refugee program, said that the fighters for a higher minimum wage should be thrown in jail, mockingly named his dog Veto and started a privatization of Maine’s 62.5 million dollar welfare program.

 

And that’s far from everything. You could probably fill a binder with LePage’s offensive comments.

 

Here in Portland, a liberal enclave that’s largely anti-LePage, two graffiti murals on a city-sanctioned graffiti wall on the Eastern Promenade made the news. One depicted the Governor in KKK garb with the words RACIST, HOMOPHOBE, MORON alongside it, and the other simply said “Dump LePage,” in large blocky letters. They were both erased shortly thereafter when officials agreed the form of “free speech crossed a line.”

 

This year, we didn’t learn anything new about LePage. He did, however, reaffirm popular opinion that calling a white person a racist might be the most emotionally damaging term you can call them. We also learned this year that intolerance and a complete disregard for fact-based evidence are welcome in important public offices, so long as the behaviors are dressed up as “speaking your mind.”

 

Businesses Said Goodbye with Gentrification on the Rise

 columns urbanconditional

Trends from last year continued this year: rents for middle to low-income residents rose, while high-end condo developments sprung up around the city.

 

Back in April, housing advocates from various neighborhood associations met to continues discussing ways to combat the housing crisis and persuade the city council to enact an immediate moratorium on no-cause evictions, mandatory one-year leases, a freeze of significant limit on no-cause evictions and a prohibition of discrimination against those holding housing vouchers.

 

In August, Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling endorsed these ideas and proposed a new city ordinance to enact them. He later abandoned the proposals after backlash from landlords and the city attorney questioning their legality. Apart from a baby-step towards housing security, through a reform that increased the amount of notice for rent spikes from 45 days to 75 days, progress towards making rent in Portland affordable has stalled. The market price for an apartment on the peninsula remains somewhere between $1300-1700, far higher than what the average person making the mean wage of $28,000 a year can afford.

 

We learned from cries of gentrification on the street, news of luxury condos rising up in once middle-income neighborhoods like Munjoy Hill, Bayside and India Street, and City Manager Jon Jennings’ proposed budget for 2017, that officials and developers would rather shift their finances in efforts to beautify the city and attract more rich elites, than service the working-class people that have made the city vibrant for decades. In 2016, Maine placed itself firmly on a list, published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, of the least affordable states to rent housing in the country.

 

In our ever-changing cityscape, where longtime staples are replaced by expensive condos, hotels and restaurants, here’s an incomplete list of businesses that either moved or closed their doors in 2016. Now, obviously it can’t be proved that these businesses shut down because of gentrification, but we’ll honor them anyway.

 

Goodbye to: Joe’s Smoke Shop, Paul’s Food Center, the Willowbrook Village Museum, Kim’s Sandwich Shop, Brealu Cafe, Thurston’s Burgers, the Rufus Deering Lumber Company, Sala Thai, Hero Sandwich Shop, the DeLorme Map Store, the Portland Frame Shop and Styxx Nightclub.

 

Notable Court Cases Were Resolved

 

Our eyes were on the manslaughter trial of Gregory Nesbitt, the landlord of the Noyes Street apartment building that caught fire in 2014 and killed six people. It was the deadliest fire in Portland in decades, and prosecutors said it could have been prevented had it not been for Nesbitt’s conduct. They argued that Nesbitt was negligent and didn’t keep the apartment up to fire and safety standards. They called the place a death trap.

 

However, after a week-long trial, a judge acquitted Nesbitt of the six counts of manslaughter. The judge could not find substantial evidence that Nesbitt was reckless or criminally negligent.

 

The verdict sent shockwaves throughout the community. It did not seem to ameliorate the grief of the victim’s family members; some might say it made it worse.

 

Although Nesbitt was spared a sentence of up to 30 years in jail, the trial itself served as a terrifying wake-up call to landlords that might be neglecting their properties. In response to the Noyes fire, and subsequent trial, the city of Portland formed a Housing Safety Office to hold landlords accountable and keep their properties up to code.

 

To get a recap on which court cases were important to Mainers living farther north, we asked Judy Harrison, the courts reporter at the Bangor Daily News. She said, that although there’s yet to be a trial, the most important case pending in Penobscot County is the State vs. Phillip Scott Fournier, the East Millinocket man accused of the 1980 slaying of Joyce McLain.

 

“McLain's unsolved death has hung over the Katahdin region like a dark storm cloud,” wrote Harrison in an email to The Phoenix. “Whether he is convicted of the crime or not, the trial, scheduled to be held in Bangor next fall, may finally bring to light what happened to her.”

 

Another important case locals have been following this past year involves the lawsuit over the expansion of Penobscot County Metro Treatment Center in Bangor from 300 to 500 patients. It could have a statewide impact since the judge found the city's ordinance governing methadone clinics discriminatory. According to Harrison, the immediate outcome of the lawsuit is that 200 more people seeking treatment for opiate addiction will get treatment but the legal dispute has sparked a conversation that will continue in the Legislature and could lead to some laws that force or, perhaps, encourage providers to move outside metropolitan service areas and into rural Maine.

 

When asked what the learning outcomes are for readers after a year's worth of local crime and court stories, Harrison said that she hopes people have a better understanding of how the criminal justice and civil court systems work.

 

“They’re not perfect, but they’re essential to our democracy,” wrote Harrison. “I, myself, am always surprised a couple of times a year by the immense darkness of which the human heart is capable and the cruelty humans beings inflict on the people they claim to love the most.”

 

Immigrants Faced Struggles and Earned Successes

 feature USMcontroversy

After at least two reported incidents of hate crimes at University of Southern Maine, some Muslim students feel uneasy on campus. 

Let’s be real; white people had little to complain about in 2016, when compared to the plights of black and brown Americans. For the most part, saying 2016 was the worst year in recent memory doesn’t have the same gravitas if you’re white.

 

But for immigrants and refugees seeking a safe place to live and work, 2016 has been tumultuous.

 

Immigrants have long been uneasy in Maine, but after a year bookended by xenophobic comments from both President-elect Trump and Governor LePage, anxieties reached unsettling new heights. Because of this year’s political climate, Islamophobia was openly stoked and went full mainstream.

 

In August, when Trump visited Portland during a campaign stop, he argued that Somali refugees coming into Maine could be linked to terrorist groups, a comment that Portland Mayor Strimling rebuked as “standing on the values of bigotry and xenophobia.”

 

When Trump won the election, Maine, like states across the country, saw a rise in anti-immigrant discrimination. Many felt like the victory gave some Mainers who had been silent before a green light to express their racism. Muslims were targeted with threats and insults, both on and offline. Cars were tagged with Trump graffiti. A South Portland man was even assaulted by a Trump supporter. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 867 hate incidents were logged into their site just 10 days after the election. Hate crimes jumped up by 35 percent in Maine.

 

The harsh clang of culture clash echoed through the halls of the University of Southern Maine this past fall, during several reported accounts of hate crimes. It started in the summer, when a white man verbally accosted a Muslim student in Glickman library, demanding that she “go back where she came from.”

 

In October, a student scribbled deus vult — a Latin phrase meaning “God wills it” referencing the Roman Catholic Church fighting Muslims in the Crusades, which has become a recent online battle cry of right-wing nationalists and white supremacists in the U.S. — on the walls of the student senate. His peers then attempted to cover up the situation, as learned through a private message exchange that included discussion on erasing the graffiti and not reporting it to the police. But their hush-hush attempts failed, with a photo of the graffiti and screenshots of their conversation circulating online before triggering student protests and a reform of the student senate. University officials condemned both of these incidents and assured the public that USM was a safe space for all.

 

What we learned from the sporadic news reports of anti-immigrant discrimination in Maine was this; although many places in Maine claim to be safe spaces, Muslims here are still uneasy and fearful about what their future will look like. We learned that it must be tough to live under leadership that devalues your struggle, under a President-elect with deportation plans and a governor that wants to pull out of the federal refugee program.

 

According to Pious Ali, Portland’s newest city councilor at large and educator at the Muskie School, we also learned that immigrants in Maine face a myriad of interconnected issues but they all differ per individual. As a public servant, Ali plans to represent everyone, but also feels a personal responsibility to help immigrants.

 

“If you put 10 immigrants in a room, you might hear 20 issues,” said Ali in a recent interview with The Phoenix. “They have very specific challenges.”

 

Some of these challenges include the ever-widening political divide, which sometimes fuels anti-immigrant sentiments in Maine and creates unnecessary labels. Ali said one of these labels is a term newspaper writers used a lot in 2016: “New Mainers.” Ali considers the term aggravating and a subtle way to categorize people based on race.

 

“When writers describe an immigrant from Canada or Britain, they are not referred to as a New Mainer,” said Ali. “So why should I have two labels? I’m already an immigrant.”

 

Despite the anxious feelings of the future, immigrants in Maine did enjoy some good news and progress in 2016. The year started with Zahra Abu joining the Portland Police force as their first female Muslim officer.

 

Throughout the year, several editorial boards across the state wrote pieces advocating for Maine to welcome more refugees, and a story appeared in The Wall Street Journal last November arguing that foreign newcomers could be the key to revitalizing Maine’s aging and dwindling workforce.

 

The Portland City Council created a new office, the New Mainers Alliance, designed to connect immigrants with business and service providers.

 

And in a landslide victory, Maine voters elected Pious Ali, the first Muslim-American to the Portland City Council. Ali emigrated to Maine from Ghana in 2002, and said he’s committed to representing communities that need to be heard.

 

We learned through stories and accounts of the immigrant experience, that despite small changes and blips of positive news, Maine still has a lot of work to do if it wants to bridge the cultural/racial divide, and make newcomers truly feel welcome.

 

And Finally….Some Positive News

 feature oldportfest

Last summer's Old Port Festival drew a record crowd of at least 50,000 tourists and locals. 

Although it may not seem like it, plenty of news stories in Maine made people happy, stimulated imaginations and sparked hope and inspiration. We’ll end on a good note and review some of the stories that acted like a warm ray of sunshine during an otherwise dark and damp news year.

 

While the Presidential Election enraged many here in Portland, the results of the local election and ballot questions brought smiles and cheers to many a Mainer: marijuana was legalized, the minimum wage increased and a 3 percent tax on the wealthy to support public education was approved.

 

Portlanders also rejoiced when the city approved an ordinance back in June that raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Many considered it a small victory for public health.

 

This year, Maine became the first state in the nation to adopt ranked-choice voting, a method of appointing office-holders that proponents say will preserve the integrity of democracy by ensuring that whomever is elected has the support of the true majority of voters.

 

In 2016, over 100 immigrants were naturalized as American citizens in Maine, during ceremonies that served as “life-changing experiences.”

 

Local gamers were delighted to hear the announcement back in May, that the popular game Fallout would feature a Maine-themed DLC titled "Far Harbor." It came with mutant hermit crabs and lobster trappers.

 

In August, President Obama designated over 87,000 acres of forest in the Katahdin region of as a National Monument, protecting and highlighting our state’s natural beauty.

 

For a solid two months, tales of a monster snake lurking in Westbrook, lovingly named Wessie, captivated our imagination and gave local journalists a break from the usual day-to-day drivel.

 

And finally, Maine went viral again when local artist Asher Woodworth dressed as a fir tree and got himself arrested in Portland for blocking traffic, when in reality he was just crossing very slowly. Woodworth said later in an interview with the Bangor Daily News that he wanted to study how he could affect people’s natural choreography and attempt to get people to slow down their routine. With that social performance, and most other news stories we read in 2016, we learned again that life is truly mad and unpredictable.

 

Perhaps, with that in mind, Mainers can usher in the new year with a degree of optimism. Perhaps we’re on the cusp of brighter horizons. Wouldn’t that be unexpected?

 

Don’t let us down, 2017.

  • Published in Features

The Phoenix Potpourri

UNE to host George Mitchell and other luminaries at its campus in Tangier, Morocco

Did you know that University of New England, with locations in Biddeford and Portland also has a campus in Morocco?
 
Organizers there just announced the lineup for 2017’s Tangier Global Forum, an annual lecture series “devoted to critical examination of the burning issues facing the global community in the 21st century.”
 
Once founded by UNE scholar Anouar Majid, the lecture series starts on January 19, 2017, with an appearance by Mark S. Smith, from Princeton’s Theological Seminary, who’ll give a talk on “The Birth of Monotheism.”
 
If you can’t make to North Africa for an academic lecture, staff at UNE plan to live stream each event. For more information, visit https://www.une.edu/tgf/events.

Border Patrol, Portland’s newest contemporary art gallery opens

Founded by Elizabeth Spavento, the visual arts programmer at the SPACE Gallery and Jared Haug, a Portland-based contemporary artist and educator, the new art gallery is poised to host a series of exhibitions starting in the new year.
 
Their first show, titled Now Burning, opens on January 6 and features incense and burners from over 30 artists across the United States and Canada. The upcoming exhibition is described as “invoking the pragmatic and mystical properties of scented smoke and will ceremoniously cleanse the space of previous occupants’ residue.” Attendees should expect a “meditative, mildly psychoactive atmosphere.”

Bishop Deeley visits Catholic Charities’ Refugee and Immigration Services for a “special surprise”

Last week, Bishop Robert P. Deeley spent the morning visiting the staff and volunteers of Catholic Charities during a religious holiday where believers are encouraged to “ask God to provide comfort and joy to refugees and migrants.”
 
“Sacred Heart/St. Dominic Parish in Portland held a wonderful celebration on Sunday, asking Our Lady of Guadalupe to offer hope and safety to immigrants and their families, and to turn all hearts towards a true and lasting peace, especially for the most vulnerable,” said Bishop Deeley. “Today, on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I wanted to visit the RIS staff to express my gratitude for their efforts in answering our baptismal call to welcome the stranger and ensuring that the dignity of every human person is protected. Through their dedication and service, Catholic Charities Maine is defending the sacredness of human life by helping individuals and families, many of whom fled from violence seeking compassion and care, to never become victims again.”

During the visit, the Bishop heard stories of plight, success and integration from various new Mainers who came over as refugees. For many there, it was a display of unity and support between faiths.

“It is such a good feeling. At the start, you can see the fear in their eyes and they want you around all of the time, every step of the way,” said Nawar Alobaidi, a case manager for RIS. “We give them hope. We take them by the hand until they are becoming independent and can take care of themselves. We do our best.”
 
Before leaving, the Bishop presented Tarlan Ahmadov, the program manager at RIS, with a $2,000 check to assist “refugees most in need.”

Barney Frank and Maine Justice Foundation launch LGBT fund

Congressman and gay rights advocate Barney Frank delivered the keynote address at an event last week at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland to launch the Maine Justice Foundation's newly established LGBT Justice Fund, designated to help gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people access civil legal aid. Through this fund, vulnerable members of the LGBT community will have assistance with finding housing, securing benefits and fighting discrimination.
 
Frank served as a congressman from Massachusetts from 1981 to 2013.

The Portland Museum of Art receives its largest matching gift in its history

Judy and Leonard Lauder, longtime American museum benefactors, thrilled folks over at the PMA last week, by donating a gift of 5 million dollars. In a statement, the Lauders wrote that they recognize the importance of economic stability for cultural institutions. The donation is intended to inspire philanthropy in others and officially marks the beginning of the Focused Endowment Initiative—a targeted plan to increase the museum’s endowment by a total of $15 million.
 
“This is a transformative gift and one of the largest in the history of the Portland Museum of Art,” said PMA Director Mark H.C. Bessire. “When we complete the Focused Endowment Initiative—spurred by the remarkable contributions of Judy and Leonard Lauder—the museum’s endowment will have grown to almost $40 million, thus providing the PMA with the stronger foundation it needs to effectively continue its mission.”

Car crash in Gorham kills a man, severely injures his family

Last Monday, an SUV collided with a dump truck in Gorham and took the life of 45-year old Joseph Piawlock, who was pronounced dead on the scene.
 
According to the Gorham Police Chief Dan Jones, Piawlock’s wife and three daughters were rushed to Maine Medical Center with serious injuries.

Jones told The Portland Press Herald that the family’s SUV started to slide sideways in the snow when the dump truck broadsided the vehicle and pushed it into a telephone pole. He stressed that even drivers of vehicles with all-wheel drive should drive slow and cautiously on storm days.

Local Journalism Matters: Grand State aims to bridge the gap between Maine reporting and online visual mediums

If you’re like most media consumers, you read your news online. There, on social media feeds (depending on algorithms such as which pages you like and the types of content your friends share), stories and articles stream in constantly, leaving you to sort out the useful from the drivel.

Over two million articles are uploaded to the Internet every day, but not all are valuable to the media consumer. Trending topics, no matter how banal, dominate discourse. Fake news misinforms. Clickbait articles with no real intellectual truths are shared by the thousands, clogging information highways and swaying political opinion.

This sheer torrent of daily content requires audiences to employ some filtering skills — in the sole pursuit of absorbing the content that matters, the journalistic works that actually empower and inform the reader to make the best decisions in their lives, communities, societies and governments.

But in a media landscape that in many ways is dependent on shrinking ad revenues, dominated by “infotainment” and subject to political influence, many feel like it’s getting harder and harder to filter out the noise. 

These challenges, for both media makers and consumers, exist on the local level too. Critics of broadcast stations like WGME and WCSH6, and newspapers like The Portland Press Herald and The Bangor Daily News (as well as the one you’re reading right now) have expressed mistrust and disinterest online. Take a short scroll through comment boards on the websites and social media pages of our local newspapers (and stations) and you'll find these critiques crying bias and irrelevance. For some Mainers, local journalism feels more like an attempt to garner clicks and retweets, instead of to inform. To those critics, local journalists come across as stenographers of fires, crimes and personal tragedies, producers of pre-packaged PR content, or panderers of “trending topics,” leaving audiences with a void where community-focused, impactful stories should be. Of course, quality journalism does happen on the local level — take Matthew Stones investigative report for The Bangor Daily News that found the DHHS misappropriated over 13 million dollars of federal welfare funds — however, the problem is, according to one new group of local media makers, that important stories like Stone's often get lost in the shuffle because they're not told through the mediums that modern consumers rely on. 

That new group of media makers aims to fill that void with hard-hitting stories and address the disconnect between old-school journalism and new-school storytelling platforms. 

Last week, a Maine-focused, non-partisan digital media platform launched on Kickstarter that aims to bridge the gap between "in-depth local journalism and online visual formats that audiences demand." It’s called Grand State, and it’s about $40,000 away from being a reality. 

The project is the brainchild of Alex Steed, a blogger at The Bangor Daily News and "visual storyteller" at Knack Factory, a content production firm. To Steed, it was living in Maine under the reign of LePage, a master manipulator of the media, that inspired the idea of this non-partisan venture. Then when Donald Trump, another adept out-maneuverer of the media, won the Presidential election, a fire was lit. It was time to turn his frustrations and ideas into something concrete and constructive.

“When I woke up after Election day, I thought, Okay, this is something I need to figure out now,” said Steed. “I want everybody to feel the urgency of this. Local media outlets have a hard time keeping up with the frantic pace of important stories, and as a result, fail to go deep with a lot of them.”

In the video from their Kickstarter pitch, Steed and (Grand State co-founder and editorial director) Molly Adams give an example of this disconnect between local reporting and the core issues they’re meant to bring to light. Last summer, they claim, when LePage spoke at a town hall meeting about the opioid crisis, the articles and interviews that followed focused on the Governor's racially charged accusations about the nature of drug dealers coming into the state, and later on his voice-mail meltdown with a Westbrook lawmaker. This left readers none the wiser about the true nature of the drug epidemic that took the lives of 272 Mainers in 2015. 

According to Steed, Grand State would take that topic and work with journalists, nonprofit organizations, and community advocates to go deeper into the issue. In this case, he says they might produce a video which explains the actions state powers are taking at a policy level to keep heroin out of the state. Or stories of families dealing with addiction. or highlighting the knowledge that folks within organizations like the Frannie Peabody Center have regarding the relationship between HIV/AIDS and heroin use.

An important part of Grand State’s news model, Steed says, is the formation of an editorial council that best represents Mainers from all different backgrounds, and will focus and inform their reporting around community conversations. By inviting people from across the spectrums of race, class, and gender to have a conversation, Grand State hopes to find a common ground, examine what people’s shared values are, and include narratives that are usually excluded from traditional media.

“Everyone’s affected by the same trends,” said Steed. “I’m doing this for the people that feel like they're rightly (and sometimes wrongly) under-served by their existing options. We want to take all the pieces that exist in traditional journalism and remix them in a place that we know people are looking.”

Since the launch, Steed said he’s seen an outpouring of support, suggestions, ideas, insights, and donations from locals, signaling that there’s a real demand for local news stories that reflect community values, promote civic engagement, and are told through popular online mediums.

Many from Portland have expressed their support by making a donation and writing online why they think local journalism, with a focus on civics education and context, matters. 

“In order to create real and effective change, we have to start in our own communities,” wrote Caseylin Darcy, a marketing professional and local yoga teacher. “To do that, we need an honest and informed media that shines a light on the important issues affecting Maine.” 

That’s not to say that Steed thinks that local media is doing a poor job; the day-to-day coverage is important, he says, but there’s a connective piece missing between more investigative stories and the visual mediums that audiences demand.

“Research at the Pew Research Center has found that by 2018, 80 percent of news content will be visual,” said Steed. “And we know from other studies that media literacy is directly related to civic engagement.”

The launch team at Grand State is comprised of locals who have written for newspapers, made radio broadcasts and produced video content. Adams got her start over a decade ago working for Blunt Youth Radio in Portland. Ultimately the Grand State team's goal is  to provide Maine with local stories that are able to inform, empower and inspire engagement amongst those that consume them. But first, they need the community's help to cover the start-up costs. 

“Call me old-fashioned,” wrote Samuel James, a blues musician and writer for The Bollard. “...but I just want my media to tell me the truth.” 

Want to support local journalism that digs deep into community-focused issues? Here's Grand State's Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1907242405/grand-state-a-maine-focused-digital-news-network/description

A new city initiative forms to plan for a more resilient Bayside in the face of climate change

No neighborhood in Portland is as vulnerable to environmental hazards - exacerbated by climate change - than Bayside.

In response to the increasing anxiety that bigger storms, king tides and nuisance flooding bring to the area, the city of Portland has launched a new initiative that aims to discuss and eventually exercise strategies to make the Bayside Neighborhood more resilient to climate change.

It’s called “Bayside Adapts,” and it aims to bring scientists, engineers, sustainability experts, city officials and community members together, to explore ways that the neighborhood can face, what many consider to be, a very urgent issue.

Bounded by Forest Avenue, I-295, Congress Street, and Franklin Street, the Bayside neighborhood features many vital city services and housing for both young and old. Immigrant families and native Mainers call this neighborhood home, alongside a mix of old and new developments. Students live in Bayside, inside a large dormitory complex.  Avesta Housing, an integral developer of affordable housing in the city, sits on the outskirts of this neighborhood. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other popular shopping marts are located within the basin. Scenic walking, running and biking trails snake through Bayside and connect to the Eastern Prom and Back Cove trails. There’s also a lot of unused, industrial space in Bayside ripe for growth and new development projects.

But it’s also the lowest point of the city. According to Troy Moon, the City’s Sustainability Director, when one stands on the Maine State Pier, they’re still 4 feet higher than many parts of Bayside. When astronomic high tides, storm surges, and rising sea levels affect the city, Bayside is oftentimes the hardest hit.

“Rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms are a bad combination and Bayside’s at the nexus of where the problem is,” said Moon.

Readers might remember the historic storm that washed over Portland in September of last year; vehicles were damaged and flooded, business was disrupted and public works crews blocked the streets for several hours trying to restore order.

So when city officials say that there’s much at stake when it comes to making Bayside a resilient neighborhood, they mean it. What they learn from Bayside, could help other extreme-weather affected areas like the Old Port and Stroudwater. 

“Bayside is extremely important to Portland economically,” said Bill Needelman, the city’s Waterfront Coordinator. We want to make sure that opportunity is not put at risk due to water.”

A big focus for the planning group is making sure they have accurate and updated data on both the local infrastructure and national and state weather trends. According to Dr. Jack Kartez, from the New England Environmental Finance Center at the Muskie School, the go-to engineering source for rain data is at least 50-years old. He said data gap analysis is integral to Phase 1 of Bayside Adapts.

“We can’t plan for the future by looking backward [at old weather trends],” said Dr. Kartez. “This is a big challenge across the country.”

The Bayside Adapts group has hired a construction engineering firm to assess the gray and green infrastructure of the neighborhood, some of which is over 100 years old.

Underneath the I-295 highway are many pipes; some go to the sewage treatment plant, some empty into Backcove. Any water that falls within the sewer shed of that area gets collected by one of those sets of pipes. If there’s an unusually high tide, the outlet for the pipes may be underwater. Then the water that collects there needs to build up enough gravitational force to push its way out. That’s why Bayside floods, in order for the water to make its way somewhere, until the tide goes back out. The worst case scenario in that situation is an overcharged sewer pipe, that combines its contents with storm water and then empties into the bay and the streets.

“Right now the number one water pollution control issue is storm water,” said Dr. Kartez. “It’s intimately connected with the waste-water.”

Dr. Kartez will serve as a consultant to the city and project manager. He has over 40 years of experience dealing with hazards like floods, wildfires, landslides, earthquakes etc.

Another big component of the new Bayside Adapts exercise is community engagement. The city plans on hosting multiple public forums, so they can hear potential coping strategies from informed citizens. During their first event, at Mayo Street Arts on December 14th, the planning members will formally announce a Resilient Bayside Design Competition, thanks to a $10,000 grant (secured by Councilor Jon Hinck) from the National League of Cities. They will invite the public to design and submit their visions of what a resilient Bayside might look like. The winners will receive a monetary prize.

“We don’t expect to build from the results, but they’ll inform us,” said Needelman.

But first, according to Needelman, the members of Bayside Adapts need to work with the community to develop a common language around this issue.

“With better data understanding, a common language and set of goals for change, we’ll be able to talk about the options for change,” said Needelman.

Before any discussion of adaptation strategies take place, planners need to answer questions like: What does resilient weather architecture even look like? How do we talk about this issue? How exactly will an increase of flooding over the years hinder the lives of those that live and work in Bayside?

Needelman said that the biggest challenge in answering these questions is addressing where Bayside (and other Portland neighborhoods affected by water) falls on the risk continuum spectrum. Meaning, should planners focus their efforts on trying to prevent a Sandy Hurricane like event? Or should they decide on gradual changes that allow Bayside residents to adapt to more water, while not necessarily shielding them from Sandy-like storms?  

“Do we go with the heroic engineering gesture that would ‘fix’ the problem,” asked Needelman rhetorically. “Or do we allow the landscape to evolve and adapt accordingly? Where’ the middle ground? That's what we'll tease out.”

 

Have you got a great idea on how Bayside can brace for a wetter world? Let your voice be heard and join the Bayside Adapts' first public forum at Mayo Street Arts on December 14th. 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. 

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