Francis Flisiuk

Francis Flisiuk

Is Portland a progressive city? According to city council votes, not so much

Although Portland has a garnered a reputation for being a liberal enclave, one local initiative found that that’s not always the case.


After analyzing 19 key roll call votes from Portland’s 2016 City Council session, the group Progressive Portland found “wide ideological splits and few consistent progressives.” Last week they published a scorecard that objectively looks on how Portland’s city councilors voted on progressive issues last year. It found that the average city councilor voted on the progressive side of issues just 57 percent of the time.


“If Portland got to pick the president, we would have elected President Bernie in a landslide,” said Progressive Portland Steering Committee member Steven Biel. “So why do we have a city council that consistently votes for landlords over renters and handouts for wealthy developers?”


Mayor Ethan Strimling, who voted progressive 83 percent of the time, earned the highest score on the council.


Ed Suslovic, who voted progressive just 37 percent of the time and lost reelection to Councilor Brian Batson, had the lowest score on the council.


The scores for the rest of the council, in order from most to least progressive, were: Jon Hinck (78%), Spencer Thibodeau (67%), Justin Costa (56%), Jill Duson (56%), Belinda Ray (47%), David Brenerman (44%), and Nick Mavodones (42%).

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Before we get into which votes were analyzed, it’s worth asking, “what does being progressive even mean?”


According to Biel, a political strategist and consultant who has worked for Greenpeace and, the term can often mean different things for different people. But in his mind, progressive values include racial justice, gender equality, strong public schools, a robust park system, access to affordable health care and housing, a sane drug policy, a clean environment, an end to corporate handouts, a welcoming community to immigrants, and an economy that serves the interest of working people, not just wealthy businesses.


Biel said that there was some challenge in determining what issues voted on last year are deemed as progressive. Biel and his fellow Progressive Portland members spent many hours poring over pages of city documents and more hours discussing which votes would be included in the scorecard and which would be left out. For example, the issue of Airbnb rentals in the city was one that didn’t make it onto the scorecard, because it’s not yet clear which side of the argument is progressive; on one side it’s pro-environment and brings wealth to local homeowners, but on the other side it takes housing units off the market and contributes to the housing crisis.


“It’s complicated,” said Biel. “Some issues don’t fit neatly on a right or left spectrum. As a progressive organization, with the 19 votes on our scorecard we felt there’s a clear right and left side to the positions.


The issues that were considered progressive and analyzed on the scorecard included: the closing of the India Street Health Clinic, housing related issues (such as leeway no-fault evictions, banning discrimination against holders of housing vouchers, and rezoning of the Elks Lodge property for offices), global warming (the council defeated a measure to incentivize green buildings), tax breaks for the wealthy (the council voted four times for a regressive tax system that benefited corporations), raising the tobacco age to 21 (passed unanimously), a moratorium on marijuana retail sales, protecting Ft. Sumner Park, and LGBT rights (a ban of state-funded travel to anti-LGBT state passed unanimously), among others.


You can see the other votes analyzed and a breakdown of which issues passed and which way Portland’s city councilors voted here:


“The city councilor’s voting records are fair game, and none of them should be afraid to explain to their constituents how and why they voted,” said Biel. “This is not meant to be a conversation ender, but rather a starter. It’s a collection of data that we think will be helpful to all voters.”


Biel joked that it’s fine if conservatives in the city look at their scorecard and vote for the guy with the lowest score (Ed Suslovic). “We’re just getting the facts out.”


In an age of alternative facts, real objective ones are important to the political process no matter where you stand on certain issues. According to Biel, the Progressive Portland group came together after Mr. Trump’s victory, when they realized that not much progress would happen in Washington.


“One of the very few places in the states that progressives have the ability to enact any kind of agenda is here at the municipal level,” said Biel. “There’s no real political advocacy organization focused on a consistent way on the Portland City Council.”


Biel hopes the information that his group has provided will arm voters with the knowledge necessary to make decisions on key issues in the future, of which there will be many. But what are the ones most pressing on progressives' minds?


After surveying over 400 locals last January, Progressive Portland found that the top priority in 2017 will be passing the 61 million dollar school bond to repair the Reiche, Longfellow, Lyseth and Presumpscot elementary schools.


“Leaky roofs, asbestos; those schools are literally falling apart,” said Biel. “They’re among the worst conditioned schools in the state. The city council has done seven different task forces over the last 25 years and every time rejected proposals to fix these schools. It’s finally time to fix them.”


Taking second and third priorities with progressive voters in Portland are the issues of landlords giving tenants extra time during no-fault eviction situations, and adopting a paid sick leave policy for workers.


“Our role won’t be as policy experts,” said Biel, mentioning ILAP (Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project), the Sierra Club, the National Resources Council of Maine, and the Maine Women’s Lobby as groups that already do a great job with that. “We’re focused on mobilizing grassroots support for progressive policies and arming voters with the tools to hold their representatives accountable.”

  • Published in News

USM President Won’t Cancel Controversial Event That Has Students On Edge

USM President Won’t Cancel Controversial Event That Has Students On Edge


The conservative group the "Young Americans For Freedom" have planned a controversial event at the University of Southern Maine. The student group received permission from University officials to host Rep. Lawrence Lockman, a controversial state legislator who's made anti-gay, anti-abortion, and pro-rape (yes, you read that correctly) statements repeatedly in the past. He's been invited to give a speech and lead a discussion titled "Alien Invasion: Fixing the Immigrant Crisis."


Naturally, large portions of the student body are furious that this is happening and are planning a protest, with stated intentions of blocking and disrupting the event. They don’t see Lockman’s talk as an example of free speech, but rather hate speech. Some student protesters are even reserving multiple tickets at a time to ensure they have space to air their grievances.


But despite the outrage, the President of USM Glenn Cummings won’t cancel the event that’s scheduled for Thursday. In a mass email to all USM students, Cummings pledged to ensure that the speaker is given a safe environment and has asked the organizer of the event to hire campus security guards or Portland police to monitor the situation.


Maine Lawmakers Consider “Blue Lives Matter” Bill


The designation of “hate crime” is usually reserved for cases involving race, religion or sexuality, but one Maine lawmaker wants to include certain occupations in it as well.


Rep. Karl Ward (R-Dedham) is sponsoring a bill dubbed “Blue Lives Matter” that would apply to emergency responders (police officers, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and EMS professionals). Ward said that he wants to ensure that ambush like attacks on police officers (like recent situations in Baton Rouge and Dallas) don’t happen here in Maine.


Under this proposed bill an assault on police officers would be a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.


Critics of the move include the New England Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, which said that hate crime laws aren’t reserved for people in certain occupations.


“While the ADL supports enhanced penalties for attacks against law enforcement officers and first responders, we do not support adding law enforcement or other categories based on employment to hate crime laws,” said Robert Trestan, ADL New England Regional Director in an interview with NECN.


Maine Gets Hit With A Historic Blizzard


What a series of storms we suffered through last week, huh? The days of blizzard conditions (which dumped at least two feet of snow here in Portland) had city workers working nonstop to make the roads safe, and clear the sidewalks and fire hydrants. But they had trouble keeping up. The Portland Press Herald reported that the Department of Transportation were forced to put supervisors behind the wheels of their plow trucks because the multiple storms put a strain on their understaffed crews.


The blizzard resulted in some minor accidents, a couple hundred power outages, disgruntled pedestrians, and hundreds of business and school cancellations across the state.


But prepare for more; meteorologists say that we may see more snow during the weekend.


New Research Sheds Light On Food Insecurity in Maine


A new study, titled “Hunger Pains: Widespread food insecurity threatens Maine’s future,” was released last week and showed that 16 percent of the state’s households (about 200,000 people) experience food insecurity. About 87 percent of those households have at least one child, a senior, or someone with a disability.


Food insecurity is defined as the state of being without reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food.


The study was conducted by the social service agency Preble Street and Good Shepherd Food Bank. It found that Maine’s hunger rate is the third highest in the country.


After thousands of surveys, researchers at Preble Street found that state policy changes may have played a big role. About 25 percent of those surveyed said that they experienced food insecurity after being dropped from Maine’s food stamp program, otherwise known as SNAP. To receive SNAP benefits in Maine, you can’t own more than $5,000 in assets. It’s this requirement, as well as other policy changes and restrictions to social safety net programs, combined with low wages and declining job availabilities, that results in thousands going to sleep hungry across the state.


Drew Taggart, Of Freeport, Picks Up A Grammy


Although Beyonce stole the show at the Grammy’s last week, another exciting thing happened: a Mainer picked up a Grammy award.


The pop duo The Chainsmokers won an award for best dance recording for “Don’t Let Me Down,” a catchy hit you’ve definitely heard on the radio once or twice. The duo’s quickly rising in popularity and consists of Drew Taggart and Alex Pall. Taggart’s the Mainer; he went to school at Freeport High a little over 10 years ago.


  • Published in News

8 Days: Hellish Concerts, Strange Dates, and a World-Building Workshop



SPICE OF LIFE | Take my advice and unplug from current events. Turn your phone off (heck, why not leave it at home for once?). Link up with your favorite human, and attend this variety show brought on by the Art Department and Bomb Diggity Arts. Hilarity will likely ensue, and you could use a dose of that. If you’re craving something a little out of this world, stick around for Tim Coombs’s directorial debut — he’ll be screening a short film that features samurai in space. Very cool.

| $8 | 7 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland |


FREE HATE SPEECH | The University of Southern Maine is truly committed to making their campus welcoming to all peoples: including those that think homosexuality is a sin, abortion is worse than rape, and that immigrants are usually criminals. USM officials have green-lit a discussion called “Alien Invasion: Fixing the Immigration Crisis,” led by state legislator Larry Lockman, who has a history of spouting hateful remarks. The Portland Racial Justice Congress is cooking up a protest, which will likely be three times the size of Lockman’s audience. Attend, question, and counter bigotry with reason; but don’t turn the situation into a mini U.C. Berkeley, with violence and silencing, because that plays right into the opposition’s hands.

| FREE | 7 pm | USM, 96 Falmouth Street |


SNIFF A WINNER | What’s that smell? Is it stale beer drying on the floor? Is it the sweaty pits of some hard-edged rockers? Is it the smoke from the burning remains of this country’s moral and ethical fabric? Or did the bathrooms at Geno’s just take their regular beating? Figure out the source of the miasma, at this intense rock concert that features the sad bastards of Alcoa, the raw dawgs of Cold Collective, the metalcore mavericks of Mill Fire, and the thunderous gentlemen of Battery Steele. Scream, smell, rock out, repeat.

| $5 | 9 pm | Geno’s Rock Club, 625 Congress St., Portland | 21 +





UP YOUR GAME | With smartphones and selfie culture, everyone fancies themselves a photographer. But few people really get it: the unwritten (and written) rules that make photography a learned craft, and ensure that only the best photographers get the Instagram likes, exposure, and praise. Learn some tips and tricks from seasoned Portland Press Herald photojournalists, who know not just how to take (and edit) a good photo on a technical level, but how to tell a story and convey emotion through the medium.

| FREE | 7 pm | Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Sq., Portland |


8Days ShutDownBrown

The Shut Down Brown band can infuse some energy into your Friday night. 

BIG TIME, GOOD TIME | Shake off the winter blahs, the political yucks, the post V-Day awws, or whatever’s bringing you down with the reliably raucous, Shut Down Brown band. Raised in the hills of Oxford county, this rhythm quartet brings down a hammer of funk, rock, and soul, with style and a sense of professional raunchiness. Chances are you know this already. Skosh will open with some sweet sax-driven tunes.

| $10 | 8 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland |


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Dinner and a movie is so overrated. Take your SO to the Circus Cabaret instead. 

CUPID’S NIGHT | If you’re taking your loved one out to dinner and a movie for Valentine’s, don’t expect to win any points for creativity. However, if you take them to the Circus Cabaret for a night of high-flying performances, then you’ll be praised for your imagination! It’s really a unique event. While the acrobats at Circus Maine spin and tumble overhead, embrace your partner and relish the absurdity of it all. If you miss this first show, don’t fret; there are performances scheduled all weekend.

| $16 | 7 pm | Circus Maine, 4 Thompson’s Pt., Portland |


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The East Pointers skillfully blend old and new styles. Photo By: Mark Maryanovich

OLD, YET NEW | “Traditional music,” is an ambiguous sounding genre isn’t it? Every continent has its version of folk music, and one band, The East Pointers are rolling through town to showcase Australia's version of it, with their new album Secret Victory. This trio is making old sounds hip again. Oddly enough, they still exude some Celtic vibes, but still provide an “adrenalized, roof-rattling, and infectiously danceable,” music experience.

| $12 | 8 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland |




FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT | Another day, another protest in Monument Square. For those that aren’t yet exhausted at standing up for truth, justice and basic human rights, a rally is scheduled for this afternoon to imagine, create and demand a future where everyone has access to affordable health care. Folks will be holding the dangerously moderate Senator Susan Collins accountable by urging her to attend a People’s Forum on the Human Right to Health Care, where she can learn from voters on the front lines of this issue why her ACA replacement proposal stinks bigtime. Gather with other Portland activists to demand that policies center themselves around human rights. (We’re still protesting this shit?)

| FREE | Noon | Monument Square, Portland |


8Days AlanCumming

Not many people can explain what's going on inside Alan Cumming's head. 

WIT AND CHARM | I don’t know much about the Tony-award winning actor, singer and author Alan Cumming, but I do know what people have said about him. The naughty performer has secured numerous favorable reviews and has been described as “raucous, wildly entertaining, and a shape-shifting trickster.” If you’re into BIG personalities on stage, head to Merrill for a performance of sappy songs, and intimate stories from the provocateur himself.

| $45 | 8 pm | Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland |


8Days Wrabel

Do you like pop songs with intelligent lyrics worth pondering? Check out Wrabel performing at One Longfellow Square.

YES YOU CAN | Specializing in music that telescopes small moments into songs with big impact is Wrabel, a pop singer/songwriter with a valuable perspective on life. He inspires new listeners, and reminds his longtime fans, that whatever difficult thing they might be going through, they’re not alone. Witness the healing power of music, when this intellectual tour-de-force takes the stage for a night of powerful self-expression. He’s joined by the Brooklyn singer/songwriter Jesse Ruben, who’s been spreading similar messages across the country.

| $15 | 8 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland |


LOW-KEY PARTY | The fusion band Sassquatch is emerging from the woods of central Maine, alongside the sassy funk fiends of Miss Fairchild, and the 10-piece indie-pop band Monarck Lisa, for a night of good intentions. Go out there and ask a pretty girl to dance.

| $8 | 8 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland |





APPROVED APPROPRIATION | The only kinds of cultural appropriation we approve of are the ones that don’t delegitimize (or take advantage of) a culture, and actually provide tangible benefits. In this case, we’re talking about yoga, the most popular activity we borrowed from the East behind eating massive bowls of pho. If you’ve ever been curious about the health benefits of yoga, or want to learn what’s behind the hubbub of massage, reiki, polarity, sacred sexuality, or cosmic consciousness, this event’s your best chance of doing so. The Arcana Yoga Studio is offering FREE courses all day, to those that really want their third eye opened, and don’t want to dish out some cash in the process.

| FREE | 9 am to 6 pm | Arcana, 81 Market St., Portland |


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The Maine-via-Malwaukee rapper milo will perform at the SPACE Gallery this Sunday.  

QUIP-SMART | The Maine-via-Milwaukee rapper milo (born Rory Ferreira) is a dynamo. His last album, the fantastic So the Flies Don't Come, was lauded as a lyrical feast by hip-hop critics throughout the country. He's one of the most dynamic, versatile, and wisecracking young rappers in the game — and he's only 25. Milo returns to Maine (he grew up in Saco) to play a show at SPACE Gallery (and possibly visit his mother, Shay Stewart-Bouley, who writes for this paper). The dude's on tour with the Brooklyn rapper Elucid, and play with local supporter Lyokha, the synth-wave project of Portland's Jimmy Cooper.  

| $8 adv, $10 day of | 8:30 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland |






DANCE IT OFF | Tilt your head downward right now. Is there a little bit more belly pudge sitting in your lap than you’d like? Have you been stocking up on hearty foods, took an extended break from exercise, and feel sluggish as a result? Might I suggest dancing to break the habit of seasonal laziness? The nationally renowned dancer Louis Marin is visiting the Casco Bay Movers studio today to teach Portlanders some fun, powerful, and graceful ways to decorate space with their bodies. Join them; you’ll feel better.

| $17 | 8:30 pm | Casco Bay Movers, 517 Forest Ave., Portland |





THE FUTURE IS BLACK | I suspect that with all the rage and frustrations floating around the community nowadays that metal will be making a cultural comeback. We need a new artistic form of resistance, a new way to say “life sucks” without floating too close to the mainstream. We need sludge rock. Let’s make nihilism great again. The Body can help. The duo has been described as the most brutal band on the planet, with “ravishing grimness and impenetrable walls of noise.” Those demons are joined by the pitch-black spectral sounds of Muslin, and the shape-shifting collective Cuse Me. Abandon all hope, ye who enter the SPACE Gallery this night.

| $12 | 8 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland |


SEA DEAL | For something that tastes like salty snot with sand sprinkled on it, oysters sure can be expensive. But if you’ve got a craving for slimy delicacies, ride the elevator up to the Top of the East, where their oysters are only $1. Slurp their innards, and gaze out across that all familiar, but still beautiful, view of downtown Portland.

| VARIED | 5 pm | Top of the East, 157 High St., Portland |


8days terrarium

Isn't this little self-sustaining world just adorable? Why not make your own?

MINI ECOSYSTEM | The world kinda sucks right now, so why not create your own? Head over to Oxbow Brewing, sip on a tall, creamy stout, and take part in this oddly relaxing terrarium workshop. With stones, shells, plants, soil and succulents, you’ll craft the parameters needed for your own glass-encased, sustainable, and 100 percent alive little world.

| $30 | 8:30 pm | Oxbow Brewing, 49 Washington Ave., Portland |




GET SCHWIFTY | You look like you could use a margarita, or three. Might as well indulge on National Margarita Day! Head over to Tortilla Flat on outer Forest Ave., for mad deals, free giveaways and some spicy/salty libations. Salud!

| VARIED | 5 pm | Tortilla Flat, 1871 Forest Ave., Portland |


WILD MEDICINE | Portland’s holistic healers might be onto something big: carrots. That’s right carrots. What about 'em? Some claim that their juices can be used to aid in both fertility and contraception. Mischa from Wild Carrot Herbs will be hosting a workshop at Urban Farm that delves into the extraordinarily varied uses of carrot tinctures.

| $12 | 5:30 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland |


FUNNY ATROCITIES | Promising you’ll never think of Stalinist Russia, Shakespeare, and Yiddish culture the same way again (and why would you?) is Paul Goldberg, an author hellbent on proving that the Jews do not use blood for religious rituals. He’ll be leading a discussion on historical fiction at Portland’s newest bookstore, right after he presents his daring debut novel, The Yid. If you like violence, philosophy, dark humor and learning about The Motherland, I recommend you pick this one up.

| FREE | 7 pm | PRINT Bookstore, 273 Congress St., Portland |




A SLOW WINTER | Looking ahead to the best local events of next week offers much to break up this slow, and dreadful winter. SPACE Gallery is hosting another no-holds-barred metal show, Empire’s cooking up another Tribute night, the Maine Historical Society is planning an interesting lecture on the importance of color in World War I, and one of the best new foreign films of last year is screening at the PMA. Stay tuned, kiddos.

Mainers Abroad: Why Everyone Should Travel To India

Mark Twain once described India as the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, and a place everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.


The two guitarists from the local Americana band the Ghosts of Johnson City, Amos Libby and Douglas Porter, would agree. They recently returned to Portland after a trip to the exotic subcontinent and shared highlights from their spiritual (and musical) adventure with The Phoenix, as well as some important life lessons they learned there.


Porter, who’s traveled across Europe and the U.S. but had never been to India before, jumped at the opportunity. He described it as a country packed with challenges, juxtapositions, contradictions, awe-inspiring sights, and unrelenting moments of both chaos and clarity.


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A note of caution displayed on a roadside boulder. 

“I love travel and feel like the values it instills and perspectives it provides are indispensable,” said Porter. “And the things that one feels in a place like India are almost indescribable.”


Sadly, this article, written inside an office in downtown Portland, could never truly encapsulate the awesome and cacophonic experience of travelling to India. Words don’t do justice to the pungent smells and intense flavors present in the spice markets of New Delhi, or the profound spiritual stirrings one feels watching burning ghats (an ancient cremation practice) in Varanasi alongside the Holy River Ganges, or the surreal and breathtaking beauty of the temples in Bangalore.


Just summarizing Libby and Porter’s trip is formidable. They managed to accomplish a lot during their one month trip. Highlights include: flying from New Delhi to Varanasi, the spiritual center of India and the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world; taking a train through the countryside around a village called Hampi, where the landscape is dotted with rice paddies, coconut palms, and million-year-old boulders; feasting on intensely sensory dishes like the Masala Dosa, and performing classic American folk tunes to a smiling crowd in one of Bangalore’s largest music stores.


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Amos Libby (left) and Douglas Porter (right) representing their band The Ghosts of Johnson City on the banks of the Ganges, the most sacred river to Hindus.

“I’ve gotten so much musically from India, and it was special to give some of that back,” said Libby. “I’ve never done anything like it before.”


Over a billion people live in the world’s largest democracy, and when Porter arrived in Paharganj, a neighborhood of Delhi with over 15 million people, the sheer maelstrom of humanity there shocked him and assaulted his senses. It’s a place teeming with life. Overwhelming, he said, was an understatement.


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Douglas Porter soaking in the sights and sounds in Paharganj. 

“In Paharganj, there are hundreds of shopkeepers barking like auctioneers, selling every imaginable ware, people everywhere preparing unbelievably delicious food in open air restaurants and street food carts, an overwhelming numbers of vehicles: busses, cars, rickshaws, scooters, bikes all whizzing by each other and narrowly avoiding collision all while laying on their horns in an almost obsessive manner, religious people of all sorts, Swamis, Sanyasi, Sadus, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, all mixed in with massive swaths of tourists, businessmen, hippies, freaks and thrillseekers, police and homeless, people of all imaginable realms all pursuing with abandon their agendas and adding their flavors in this exceedingly unique human being cocktail,” described Porter.


Porter says he likely wouldn’t have traveled to India if it weren’t for Libby, his friend and fellow musician.


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Amos Libby in Dehli posing in front of the Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India.

The two met through music. Three years ago, Porter’s musical energy was channeled as a guitarist in the anti-genre indie rock band SeepeopleS. He also bounced between a number of other local bands, while on the side he fostered a fascination for the sitar, an instrument similar to the guitar, yet “hyper-refined and exotic.” From this burgeoning interest, he would inevitably meet Libby. The first time Porter saw Libby was when he was on stage as a guest musician with the Portland-based rock band Twitch Boy playing tabla (a South Asian drum). Afterward, Libby would see him occasionally playing oud (an Arabic lute) with the Okbari Middle Eastern Ensemble, shredding along and singing in perfect Arabic.


“He became a bit of an enigmatic legend in my mind,” said Porter. “Since then we have formed not only an incredible friendship but an almost cosmic musical bond.”


They’ve been performing together since in the Americana outfit The Ghosts of Johnson City, (see our review of their latest album, The Devil’s Gold, here). But going to India together, Porter said, basically made them blood brothers.


“Together, we stepped into a world that’s a little more real,” said Libby. “Doug did so well there. I’ve brought a lot of people to India for the first time, but he was among the easiest to assimilate into the Indian experience.”


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A Carnatic street performance, the classical music of Southern India. 

It helped to have a guide like Libby, who, to me, embodies the definition of a traveler instead of a tourist. A traveler cares about historical and political context, does his/her best to assimilate and show reverence for the host culture, and doesn’t assume everyone there knows English. But a tourist tends to hop from shiny attraction to money trap in a sheltered bubble of careful planning and creature comforts. Travelers expect the unexpected, while tourists consult the guide book.


“You need to be willing to take risks and be inconvenienced,” said Libby. “It’s a leap of faith really. There’s no real handbook for travel. You find out things as you go.”  


Libby knows from experience; on top of visiting the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and North Africa, he’s been to India over 20 times and is fluent in two of the countries 23 official languages — Hindi and Kannada. India is a therapeutic place for Libby, who travels there frequently to meet and study with a Carnatic music teacher, and to visit ancient holy shrines, and tap into the “spiritual energy pouring out of those sites.” (Libby has a spiritual background in Hinduism and Sufi Islam, both of which have a strong presence in India.)


feature GangaRiverVaranasiVaranasi, the spiritual epicenter of India, and the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. 


He said that learning about the Indian experience — whether it be the languages, the history, the spirituality, or the music — is like trying to “drink the ocean with a spoon.” Which suggests that writing about the experience within a couple pages, is like trying to accomplish the same task, but with a butter knife.


“Travelling to India is always an educational vacation,” said Libby. “I focus on the moment there. I plug back into the reality that sustains me throughout the year.”


It’s safe to say that Porter picked a traveling partner with the intellectual tools necessary to navigate around, what’s typically a challenging country for American visitors.


One reason India can be a challenging place for some Western visitors is the display of extreme poverty that’s ever-present in most of its cities. Mumbai (Bombay) is home to one of the largest slums in the world, Dharavi, where, according to the World Population Review, close to a million people live in cramped squalor in .81 square miles, with limited access to clean food and water, amidst raw sewage and garbage heaps. Libby's not a proponent of slum tourism, but said that witnessing destitution in India forces you to recognize a harsh reality: the level of comfort and way of life here in America is an exception to the rule. When it comes to the population outside the “developed world,” most people live in conditions we’d consider hellish.


“It’s difficult to witness, but important to witness,” said Libby. “Hopefully it will inform your views on social justice and economic equality. It's something real and hopefully it will be part of your consciousness in your life everyday.”


And therein lies the point of this package of stories on travel: witnessing both the beauty and misery of the human condition can empower an individual. According to Libby, it can truly change your life. It’s changed his.


Dedicating a feature on the importance of travel runs the risk of publishing platitudes; we’ve all heard about how popping off to foreign lands can “broaden your horizons,” or how the best time to travel is right now, and if you haven’t booked a plane ticket already, you probably never will.


But urging others to travel and practice intercultural communication, and explore which human qualities are universal might be extremely necessary right now. We live in a time (and when haven’t we, really...) where millions of Westerners fear foreigners, and elections are won in part by riding that collective version of fear-based ignorance. Unrest will likely continue until xenophobes embrace and learn from the cultural differences they have with their immigrant neighbors. Libby has always been an outspoken advocate for this kind of learning.

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The megacities of India don't just pulsate with human activity, but also teem with monkey, elephant, cat, dog, goat, and bovine life. 

What's reinforced by Libby's tales from the road, is that travel, with all its anxieties and thrills, can “force you to open your eyes.” Travelers that land in strange cities and thrust themselves into uncomfortable situations, navigating through language barriers, shocking realities, and an entirely alien set of cultural and spiritual values, emerge from their journeys as better neighbors, armed with knowledge of the shared experiences that make us all human. They learn how to communicate, how to smile, and how to respect others. In short, travel smashes prejudices, and fosters empathy.


India can be ground zero for this life lesson. It’s a country plagued with extreme problems: a huge wealth disparity, an overburdened system, an aging infrastructure, and 300 million living without electricity and basic sanitation (according to a report in the Washington Post). Add to that a population that speaks over 23 languages, and come from a multitude of religious backgrounds (Hindi, Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim, Christian, to name a few), and you’d think there would be chaos. But life goes on in India, and apart from some flares of unrest, in relative peace. Libby said that America could learn a lot from India, especially when it comes to community and coexistence.


“It’s a hard place to live in, but people still find a lot of kindness to show each other,” said Libby. “Indian culture is very hospitable. When you see somebody else’s reality, hopefully you’re more prepared to apply those perspectives here at home.”


Porter agrees, and said that it seemed like the whole trip took place in some “strange dream world, a place where the barrage of psychedelic stories came so quickly and became folded so deeply into the dark corners of his memory that it hardly seemed like it was real.” But he won’t forget the experience, the striking differences between America and India or the valuable lessons the trip reinforced surrounding what it means to be an empathetic human.


“India has taught me so much already,” said Porter. “But I've barely dipped my toe in this ocean.”



  • Published in Features

Pop Idols, Language Barriers, and Smashing Stereotypes: Why this young Muslim's fascinated with South Korea

For most of her life, Mary Kadhim, a 16-year-old Iraqi-born student at Deering High School, held a deep fascination with South Korean culture.


It started when Kadhim first tuned into “Boys Over Flowers,” a short-lived but hugely successful dramedy television series that follows a spunky schoolgirl trying to balance romance and education at a South Korean academy.


“At first I thought it was weird,” said Kadhim. “But then I started really liking it, and feeling deeply connected with Korean culture.”


Kadhim quickly began consuming other Korean language dramas and music. Tools, she said, that helped her deal with bouts of depression.


“When I was 13, I was going through tough times, with my mother's illnesses, being bullied at school, and my father away for a while. I started becoming depressed and distant from others,” Kadhim said. “Then I fell in love with K-Pop and it had a sort of power on me, it was very soothing even though I couldn’t understand a single word.”


For the uninitiated, K-Pop is a music craze that blends dozens of genres and features English phrases, snappy dance numbers, synthesized beats, colorful costumes, trippy audio-visual elements, and infectious pop anthems. It originated in South Korea, but has proliferated in popularity across Asia, Europe, and South America. Remember Psy’s “Gangnam Style” video, the first video to reach two billion views on YouTube? That was K-Pop.


feature Kpopidols 

Although sometimes criticized for exploiting its idols, hypersexuality, plagiarism, and meaningless lyrics, the genre has managed to captivate millions worldwide. It’s effectively reshaped Korea’s music scene, propelled dozens of young artists into wealth and fame, and spawned legions of diehard fans, mostly adolescent girls, some of which exhibit stalkerish behavior to get a glimpse of their musical idols. Back in 2012, the Korean boy band JYJ revealed in a press conference that they were stalked by fans for 8 years, and some had placed GPS on their cars, broken into private property, and tapped their phone calls. And they're not alone; many Kpop idols have expressed their anxiety over fans intruding on their personal life. (The most obsessed fans of K-pop are known as sasaeng, and the rise of them and their extreme invasive behavior prompted Korea to pass a new law in 2016 that saw the penalty for stalking K-pop idols rise to a $17,000 fine and up to two years in jail).


Kadhim doesn’t plan on taking her fascination with K-pop into a celebrity-chasing obsession. But she is committed to traveling to Seoul, South Korea, this summer, to fully immerse herself in the music and culture that’s had such a positive impact in her life. Kadhim recently got accepted into a study abroad program in Seoul through CIEE, and is trying to crowdfund $3,500 to make her dream trip a reality.


“But this trip is not just about me liking a musical genre,” Kadhim explained. “I want to be a bridge between cultures.”


Kadhim was born in Iraq and moved to America with her brother, mother, and father when she was 10 years old. Though she doesn’t wear a hijab and dresses in Western clothing, she’s a follower of Islam. She speaks Arabic and English fluently, and now, after three years of studying in her off-time, she can read, write and speak Korean. She says her skills are still a little weak, but her pronunciation is good.


According to Kadhim, her friends at school provided the impetus she needed to invest the thousands of dollars for the Seoul adventure. After hearing her stories of her friends traveling to places like Somalia or Burundi to visit family, she knew she had to do something similar because it could be “life changing.”


“Travelling can make you a better person,” said Kadhim. “A completely more aware human being. It can give you so many life experiences, from overcoming anxiety to stepping over language barriers, to getting lost and finding your way back. These experiences can give you power.”


As a Muslim immigrant, Kadhim already has experience dealing with some “travel hurdles.” While learning English and living her first years in America, she remembers having to communicate solely with facial expressions and hand gestures.


After arriving in Portland six years ago, Kadhim had to be a part of something that seems synonymous with immigrant experience: uncomfortable conversations. According to Kadhim, white people in Maine tend to look at her differently, act surprised when she acts “nice to them,” and are often shocked to hear that she’s a Muslim, because of the fact that she chooses not to wear a hijab.


“The perception of women in Islam is that men always control them, that they are weaker, that they can’t fend for themselves,” said Kadhim. “They think we are abused, and it’s simply not true.”


It’s these types of nasty stereotypes that Kadhim wishes to wipe away through traveling and talking to people. Although uncomfortable at first, having these conversations between people of different cultures is important and necessary to Kadhim, and it ties into her career goals; Kadhim plans on studying International Affairs in college and eventually becoming an Ambassador of Peace.


“As a person who’s blessed to have Arabic, Korean and American cultures in me, I want everyone else to have what I have,” she said. “To see the world the way I do, to become open minded.”


That’s why linking the seemingly disparate cultures of Korea and Iraq, through travel and studying music and language, is paramount to Kadhim. If she’s able to travel to Seoul this summer, she plans on returning to Portland with the social skills of a “cultural broker,” skills she says are desperately needed during the divisive times left in the wake of the election.


“Portland needs to come together as a community,” said Kadhim. “I don’t see complete unity here. I see fear in all of us.”


Do you want to support Kadhim’s language immersion goals? Check out her fundraising campaign here:


  • Published in Features

The People Have Spoken: Locals Share Their Thoughts On Legal Marijuana

Mainers approved of a legal recreational marijuana initiative last year, but by a slim margin: just over 4,000 votes.

Clearly, there wasn't unanimous support for legalization in this state, and even amongst pro-legalization folks, there were some reservations about the language in the bill.

So I asked a number of Mainers about their thoughts on the current version of Maine's Marijuana Legalization Act, and the approved moratorium on retail sales along with it.

Were people excited? Surprised? Angry? Too stoned to care? Here's what a completely random sampling of locals had to say on the matter: 

James Jameson – Portland

“The big concern for me is, why are they extending the moratorium before they even started drafting the laws. It's like asking for an extension before you've even started the homework, nine months before it's due.”


Scott Gagnon – Gray, Certified Addiction Prevention Specialist

I do have deep concerns about the impact of the new marijuana law on children and teens in Maine. Throughout the campaign, we noted the many issues in the marijuana law that expose youth and communities to significant risks. The under 21 loophole for possession was one, but frankly, there are many others. On January 30, possession and home grows go into effect. The home grows in particular, if not regulated and enforced well, will absolutely create more access for youth. The Legislature must act quickly to give municipalities and local law enforcement the power to deal with these as they see fit to protect the health of youth and communities. My coalition will be monitoring the impacts of the new marijuana law very closely.  We must remember, half of Maine said "No" to Question 1. We owe it to them to be the watchdogs as this moves forward and to do the best that we can to prevent Big Tobacco 2.0 from compromising the health and safety of our communities.”


Kaitie Welch – Portland

“I feel like if eighteen-year-olds are responsible enough to sign themselves into the armed forces, then they are responsible enough to smoke marijuana.”


Tom MacMillan – Portland

“I am glad that voters approved Question 1 in November and disappointed that the Legislature feels justified in delaying and rewriting what the voters passed. Real democracy is in short supply in Maine and the United States these days.”


Nathan Shea – Brewer

“I'm actually pleased that the law has passed, even though it has faced some hurdles and shops are being delayed for a year. I really don't understand all the fear around it. I traveled to Portland, OR, recently and saw one of the marijuana shops. It was set up like a high-end boutique shop, you had to wait at the register before you can go in. The shopkeepers were friendly and professional and helped you get what you wanted. They knew the difference between THC and CBD and its effects on the body.”


Louis Sigel – Gardiner

“I am extremely happy that marijuana is legalized both recreational and medical now. I got signatures on the petition November last year and actively campaigned for Question 1 this year and I testified against LD 88 which was just passed on an emergency basis to delay certain parts of the Marijuana Legalization Act. I testified against a moratorium on marijuana sales and production in Gardiner and applied to be on the task force to make recommendations to the City Council on local marijuana policy. I do not have any major concerns except that there will be those in power trying to postpone or procrastinate about the implementation of the legalization.”


Nicholas Dunlop – Dresden Mills

“I don't think it's fair that you’ve got to have private property to grow and think it shouldn't be up to a landlord. Laws made it so only seniors and rich people can grow; I think the whole thing is a huge scam. I voted No on 1 because I read the bill and it's just going to slowly screw over good regular Maine people, so I don’t consider it legal. I'll consider it legal when you can grow in an apartment with the sun and without anyone bitching about it.”


Craig C. Dorais – Portland, University of Maine Law Student

“My only concern is that there will indeed be more people harmed than not by increased Marijuana use. I voted for the measure but did so with significant trepidation. However, the efforts to delay the ballot initiative taking effect are completely out of line. For good or ill, the people have spoken, and the law they voted on should stand and not be hindered in any way.”


Robert Doyle – Poland

“LePage just wants to empty his black market warehouse stash onto the market first!”


Brad Littlefield – Springvale

“I believe the law violates Federal Law by placing a damper on local investment due to the forfeiture laws of the federal government. Any property that is used in production and distribution of drugs can be confiscated, people who manufacture, sell and distribute marijuana under Federal Law will be unable to purchase weapons. Enhanced marijuana should be prohibited. Enhanced marijuana is extremely potent and dangerous, no matter what advocates say. Marijuana will be more readily available to our youth, because of careless adults. The law as currently written in Maine is poorly written. Finally, do we want a whole population attempting to work or be social publically with a euphoric buzz on; are we as a society not unproductive enough?”


Tim McClure – Lisbon Falls

“You can't regulate behavior. Nor should you try.”


Brendan Sullivan – Dover, New Hampshire

“I need to move back to Maine.”


Jeremy Carter – Buxton

“It's an herb, not a drug.”


Joyce Marshall – Chelsea

“Is there really anybody who is chemical free nowadays?”


Seth Goodell – Portland

“Honestly I haven't used marijuana myself for nearly a decade and don't plan on starting now just because it's legal. That being said I still feel like it's a long time coming. Anything that restores personal freedoms of any kind are a plus in my book. My only concern is that this is a minuscule step towards being what I consider free, and people will settle and stop fighting for more.”


Robin Cote – Oakland

“It's pretty simple. Use similar guidelines to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Alcohol is much more impairing than weed and does not have the wide range of beneficial medicinal properties. We voted to make it legal, so stop screwing around and trying to stop the voice of the people.”


Tina Nadeau – Portland

“I really wish the legislature would focus on the opioid crisis rather than on marijuana. What a waste of time and resources for everyone involved.”


Donna Abram-Cioppa – Brunswick, Therapist

“Marijuana’s been used by indigenous people in many cultures for centuries to heal and to facilitate ceremonies. As a healer myself and a lightworker, I feel natural is always best.”


Adam Overlock – Oakland

“Everybody already has pot. Making it legal is about us not wasting any more resources on something that isn't and had never been a problem.”


Mike Joys – South Portland

“As far as I'm concerned, forget about retail. Allow caregivers to expand their operation to selling to the public for donation much like the medical system works outside of the dispensaries. I would be very wary of buying state sanctioned and grown marijuana.”


Larry Hamilton – South Portland

“So basically I’ll be able to smoke it legally, but have to buy it from the shifty guy on the corner illegally with the state receiving no tax? Do I have that correct?”


Dee Norris – Starks, Veteran with PTSD and Epilepsy

“Any law against this herb is illogical. This plant has over 4000 years documented use, serving mankind. The legality of the plant has been such that many people with health problems have not been able to access standardized tinctures and oils, for their cancer, epilepsy, depression, or addictions. It is a sin to keep health from people. When I look at children's cereals and the toxins and chemicals in them, I wonder why people feed these things to the kids, and yet fight something as wholesome as the herb. My epilepsy is so bad I can barely function; every day is like a near death experience, but marijuana is what is keeping me alive.”

  • Published in News

IT'S LEGAL: Maine's Guide To The New Marijuana Law

State lawmakers had to jump through numerous political hurdles to get to where we’re at today, a time where recreational marijuana is finally legal in Maine.


After clashing with House Republicans in staunch opposition to legalization, and enduring a recount effort (that was eventually ditched) and a marijuana smear campaign led by Governor Paul LePage, proponents of legal weed won a major, albeit slim, victory. But the battle’s far from over, as recent events have shaken the newly legal marijuana landscape with a storm of chaos and confusion.


Last week, just before Question 1 kicked into effect on Monday, lawmakers gathered to pass a bill (LD 88) that would amend parts of the Marijuana Legalization Act that they felt crucially needed clarity. Months ago, Attorney General Janet Mills raised concerns over the language of the bill, saying that it was ambiguous enough to allow minors to smoke, and people to drive under the influence. Technically, it did.


The amendment sought to clarify that possession of marijuana by a juvenile (who isn’t a registered patient) is a crime, and prohibits the possession or sale of retail marijuana products until February 1, 2018, an extra three months past the date in the original bill. The Legislature passed the amendment unanimously.


But LePage threw a wrench in the gears last week when he told reporters that he wouldn’t sign the amendment until lawmakers “fix it.” LePage’s main beef with House lawmakers is over which agency should get licensing authority over the marijuana market. LePage pushed for the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations and a provision of $1.6 million in funding to the bureau, money he argued could be used to hire experts from other legal marijuana states to help with the implementation process. (Instead, the regulatory agency poised to take over licensing will be the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.)


"I will sign this bill as soon as I have direction that we can have the money and the resources to start writing the rules," LePage told reporters.


House Democratic leaders and Senate Republican leaders said that those rules could be worked out in the coming weeks by a newly formed legislative committee specifically tasked to come up with solid marijuana policy.


However, LePage said he doesn’t trust them. Though LePage reversed course a day later and signed LD 88 into law, closing the potentially dangerous loopholes with minors and vehicles, he also pledged to his use his executive power to move licensing authority from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage and Lottery Operations (BABLO), citing concerns that the Department of Agriculture might lose its federal funding if it regulates recreational marijuana.


“Because I do not trust [Democratic House] Speaker Sara Gideon will approve my language in the bill she submitted in her own name, I will issue an executive order delegating oversight of marijuana from ACF to BABLO,” LePage said in a statement posted on Facebook. “However, no rules will be promulgated until the Legislature allocates money to fund the rulemaking process. I sign this bill today to protect Maine children from the dangers of marijuana.”


All in all, the political wrangling and propaganda campaigns launched by the Governor concerning recreational marijuana these past few months have resulted in a lot of ambiguity over what's exactly legal.


That's why, here at The Phoenix, we’ve waded out into the legislative weeds, mined some nuggets of info and created this guide to Maine’s marijuana legalization act. We’ve also included a smattering of opinions from Portlanders just before legalization took effect, to provide some color and context. We hope it makes things less hazy.


cannabis smoking 759x430 

So it’s really legal?


Yup, the time many have awaited is here: Mainers can now use possess and transport up to 2.5 oz. of prepared herb.


In addition to that, Mainers can possess, grow, cultivate, process and transport up to six flowering plants, 12 immature plants, and unlimited seedlings. They just must tag every plant with their name, ID number, and possess all marijuana produced by those plants at their residence.


Technically, under this new law, the only way to legally acquire marijuana is by growing it yourself, so perhaps it’s time to suddenly get interested in horticulture. (If so, check out our column “Homegrown In Maine,” for yield-increasing tips and tricks.)


What’s the legal definition of marijuana anyway?


The words cannabis and marijuana are interchangeable. All parts of the marijuana plant are now legal, including the seeds, stems, flowers, buds, resins, and any compound, derivative or mixture of the plant.   


Who gets to smoke?


If you agree with President Trump’s pick for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, then bad people get to smoke. Last year he was quoted as saying “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” So yeah, all bad people, 21 and over, are legally allowed to smoke marijuana in Maine.


Can I smoke outside?


You can only smoke, vape or otherwise consume marijuana in a “non-public space.” So no, much like you can’t drink a beer walking down Congress Street, you can’t rip a joint either — though both activities seem to happen there anyway.


Use of marijuana is restricted under the new law to private residences with the owner's permission.


What about inside my home?


Feel free to smoke marijuana inside your own home, with the decreased sense of anxiety and paranoia that legality brings.


However, if you rent property, you must get permission (like with cigarettes) to smoke inside. Consumption of edibles inside a rented property is also up to the landlord.


On my porch?


Well, a porch is technically a non-public space, so feel free to toke away on it and let that skunkiness waft through the neighborhood. Just remember, if you’re at a rented property, or someone else’s private residence to ask for permission first.


Can I be high in public?


If you’re not, or haven’t been already, go right ahead.


However, we don’t recommend going into work stoned, because much like clocking in drunk, it could likely be the only evidence your employer needs to terminate you. Your boss can still enact their own workplace policies. Thankfully, the new law made sure to include that an employer cannot penalize a person for choosing to smoke marijuana in their own home.


Will it be easier for children to access marijuana?


This question’s tricky. Some say yes, and some say no. LePage sticks with his convictions that marijuana is a dangerous gateway drug, and legalization encourages usage among minors.


Last October, during the campaign, LePage evoked reefer-madness-esque propaganda in a video message to voters where he claimed that marijuana is deadly and makes people three times as likely to use opioids.


“We do not need to legalize another drug that could lead to more deaths,” LePage said in the video. “THC levels in marijuana snacks are so high they could kill children and pets. Children can’t tell if there is weed in these snacks.”


Others are concerned that these edibles — which often appear exactly like popular children’s treats like brownies, cookies, gummy bears and lollipops — will inadvertently be consumed by minors.


The Portland-based columnist Barbara Sullivan wrote about this concern in a recent piece for The Kennebec Journal. In it, she urged parents to talk to their children about marijuana, and educate themselves on the potency and delivery system of the drug.


“The better armed they are with this information, the more tools they have to navigate the road of risk that marijuana presents to their teenage brains and bodies,” wrote Sullivan.


The simple scientific fact is that no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose, but there are studies that observe negative cognitive effects the drug can have on a young person’s brain. This study out of the California Society of Addiction Medicine argued that marijuana use in children can hinder their brain development and motor functions, affect their emotions and memory, and potentially shackle them with a dependency to the drug.


Scott M. Gagnon, an expert in addiction prevention and chair of the Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities coalition, also echoed concerns about the “significant and immediate risks” marijuana poses to Maine’s youth in a recent op-ed in The Bangor Daily News. He supports the approved moratorium because he believes Maine needs more time to address “public health risks.”


“Edibles pose one of the biggest risks to our youth; it is imperative we have everything in place possible to minimize harms,” wrote Gagnon. “This isn’t something we can do overnight.”


In the letter, Gagnon also cited a study from the journal JAMA Pediatrics that found that exposure to marijuana in young children rose to 150 percent when retail sales of the drug began in Colorado.


However people like David Boyer, one of the driving forces of the Marijuana Legalization Act, firmly believes that ending the prohibition and regulating the plant will decrease the access minors have to marijuana. Once retail marijuana products like edibles are sold, IDs will be checked at the counter. The new law requires edibles to be stamped with warning labels, a universal symbol, and its THC potency, with the idea being that adults will easily be able to differentiate between a normal treat and a marijuana edible and keep it out of the hands of minors.


“We’re not sure that it needed to be clarified more [in the original bill], but we’re happy to clarify; marijuana is only legal for those 21 and up,” said Boyer, who’s also the political director of the Maine Marijuana Policy Project, on the LD 88 amendment. “We hope that parents are talking to their kids about marijuana.”

 feature marijuanaparty DavidBoyer

David Boyer addressed the crowd at the Portland Phoenix's "End of Prohibition" party celebrating the victory of marijuana legalization, but also highlighting some political challenges that lie ahead. 

Boyer said his primary goal is eliminating the black market, where kids and adults alike currently buy their recreational marijuana. He said he’s disappointed that the Legislature voted to delay retail sales for another three months because that will keep the black market open as the only source for recreational marijuana for longer. According to him, the choices that the regulatory agency and the new legislative committee on marijuana make down the road are important, because they too will affect the black market. For example, Boyer opposes a marijuana tax in the 30 to 40 percent range, or a limit on the number of stores that can open in the state — moves he feels would further encourage the black market.


Bob Mentzinger, a political activist and supporter of Question 1 from Unity, agrees, saying that children already possess marijuana under criminalization. He did, however, have problems with the amendment that passed last week, because he believes nothing is gained from delaying the whole process, and views the concern about marijuana being legal for minors a moot point, because the original bill explicitly stated numerous times that that wouldn’t the case.


“We’re going to see kids have less access to it, not more,” said Mentzinger. “I think the push to change the language of the bill was a political cover by people who don’t want to get this thing off the ground.”


Can I sell my marijuana?


Nope. You’re prohibited from selling any amount of marijuana or derivative of the plants, but you’re free to gift up to 2.5 ounces and six immature plants, to anybody of legal age.


What’s the regulatory agency?


For now, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is in charge of regulating the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of marijuana. This includes limiting the total amount of weed cultivated for recreational sales.


LePage has said that he will fight for the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations to have the licensing authority since much of the infrastructure for policy is laid out with current laws concerning alcohol. He’s also worried that with the new administration in Washington, federal funds to the Department of Agriculture might be cut if they’re used to regulate marijuana.


When can I expect retail stores and “pot cafes?”


Not anytime soon. Because while it’s now legal to smoke, grow and possess, there’s no legal way to buy marijuana in Maine.


After lawmakers scrambled to pass the LD 88 amendment, the earliest that marijuana entrepreneurs can open up pot cafes, stores, and social clubs is February 2018. Establishing the framework and regulatory practices of a recreational marijuana market takes a lot of work, and officials here in Maine need over a year to work out the kinks.


Colorado took 13 months to set up its recreational market. It seems to be working fine for them. The state saw over $135 million in tax revenue from their legal marijuana industry last year, and for the most part, that money went to fund education for youth and law enforcement on the drug.


Will legal cannabis help Maine’s economy?


Of course it will! That is, as long as LePage doesn’t fight legislative efforts to fund regulation.


The new law proposes a 10 percent tax on retail sales of marijuana products — which is low compared to the other states that have legalized recreational marijuana and tax it between 25 and 37 percent.


According to the bill, all the revenue from the marijuana market will be dumped into Maine’s General Fund, but can’t be used to directly fund new programs. It can, however, be used to train law enforcement personnel on the rules and laws concerning retail and recreational marijuana.


Although it’s not clear yet what it will be used for, Maine can certainly expect some extra coins in its coffers come next year. According to a review from the Maine Office of Fiscal Programs, the revenue from the recreational market taxes could be up to $10.8 million a year.


Bob Mentzinger from Unity sees this an extraordinary “cash crop” opportunity for Maine.


“Maine’s in a sweet spot, we’re an agricultural state, and we’ve been growing and trafficking marijuana for decades, if not centuries already,” said Mentzinger. “This will be an economic boon for Maine. We’ll see more jobs and more money. And Maine needs that right now.”


How will recreational marijuana affect medical marijuana?


This is a question that new legislative Cannabis Advisory Commission will be grappling with in the coming months.


But on paper currently, the Marijuana Legalization Act “may not be construed to limit any privileges or rights of a qualifying patient, primary caregiver, or registered dispensary.”


So it’s business as usual for Maine’s medical marijuana community. Advocates for medical marijuana caregivers say that there needs to be a distinct medical market, so specific strains are available to patients that need them for certain ailments.



Can I go on a burn cruise?


Absolutely not. One of the biggest pushes for passing the LD 88 amendment was to clarify that drivers and passengers may not consume or be under the effects of marijuana in a moving vehicle.


“You can’t drive down the road with a beer in your hand,” said Boyer. “So you can’t drive with a joint in your hand either.”


Law enforcement in Maine still needs to develop standards to determine if drivers are impaired, beyond just field tests. They say they need a consensus on what the THC (the psychoactive compound in marijuana) blood level limit should be. Lawmakers in Maine attempted to pass a bill last year that would set the legal limit of marijuana intoxication at 5 nanograms of THC per 100 milliliters of blood. But there’s mixed research out there concerning the effect marijuana has on driving, because the height of intoxication does not happen at the same time that THC levels in the blood peak. Last year, the safety foundation of AAA released a study that said that there’s no reliable way to determine impairment by a blood-test threshold.


And as of right now, there’s no clear, simple way for police to check if drivers are too stoned to drive. This might make future DUI cases quite tricky. So if you must partake in that classic Maine pastime of burn-cruising, we advise you keep some eye-drops and Ozium in your glove compartment to help act your way out of trouble.


Or, you could just not drive high. Even if the worst thing you’ve done driving stoned is stop at a green light.


Can I still get in trouble with the feds?


Here’s the craziest part: yes you can. The federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug — the same category as heroin, LSD and ecstasy.


Now, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be arrested by the feds while smoking legal marijuana in Maine, there are problems that can still arise with this disconnect in policy between country and state. For example, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a federal agency, explicitly states that legal marijuana users can’t buy guns, citing the risk of “irrational or unpredictable behavior,” and lying on your application is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.


What will the future look like?


The work, and headaches and squabbles that come with it, around marijuana policy are just beginning.


Marijuana users won the right to own and consume legally, but there’s a long road ahead in terms of designing smart policy and regulatory market practices, that simultaneously minimizes health risks, makes Maine money and doesn’t infringe upon citizens rights.  


While it’s likely that pro-marijuana lawmakers will battle it out with Republicans and LePage if they attempt to dismantle Question 1, and/or make it harder for the recreational market’s regulatory agency to secure funding, they will also have to make decisions on a myriad of marijuana-related measures. Among the issues that need to ironed out: the process of applying for a retail marijuana business, how police will test for marijuana intoxication, which towns are marijuana shops allowed in, gun ownership and marijuana usage, what’s the nitty-gritty of the rules surrounding cultivation, how to minimize access to minors, what standards will marijuana businesses be tested by, who will regulate them, and what will be done with the tax profits.


Mike Sylvester, who represents District 39 of Portland in Maine’s House of Representatives, said that ultimately the question of criminality was what the majority of people who voted yes on Question 1 cared about, so Mainers should consider the future of its fellow citizens languishing in jail over marijuana charges.


“Will we extend our new sense of justice retroactively?,” said Sylvester. “That is a bigger question for me then what the package of a brownie will look like.”

  • Published in Features

Maybe it's the winter blues, maybe it's Seasonal Affective Disorder

Why is it that newspapers (like the one you’re reading now) insist on dedicating issues to “Winter Survival?”


During the winter months, readers tend to need a little encouragement to brave the cold, stay active and resist the urge to slob out on the couch watching TV during their free time.


We at The Phoenix believe people need Winter Survival Guides to remind us that although it seems like life slows down, and depression bubbles up inside us, there are a myriad of tools in our city that can help chase away the winter blues.  


But what if concerts at Blue and lattes at CBD don't work? What if, despite your best efforts to plan a productive day and a fun, social night out afterwards, you're plagued by a cloud of sadness you can’t quite pinpoint the source of?


Science would suggest that those who feel their energy and motivation levels sapped from the start are experiencing not just the “winter blues,” but seasonal affective disorder.


Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression directly related to the changing of the seasons. Symptoms include feeling hopeless, losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, difficulty concentrating, low energy levels, problems sleeping, changes in appetite, and an aversion to social interactions. In some extreme cases, SAD can lead to thoughts of suicide. Over three billion people are affected by it worldwide, so it’s safe to assume you’ve experienced it at some point in your life.


I spoke with Cynthia Booker-Bingler, a clinical social worker at Health Affiliates Maine, about how SAD can be treated. She said that she’s spoke with 20 patients just this year about seasonal affective disorder.


“Maine gets less light,” said Booker-Bingler. “So it does affect people more here.”


According to Booker-Bingler, SAD can be serious if not treated. People have lost jobs, friendships and relationships over it. Over time, it can affect your heart’s health and blood pressure. Sometimes it can lead to more serious, permanent forms of depression. But Booker-Singler said that she’s made a difference in some people’s lives just by asking the right questions, diagnosing them with SAD, and directing them towards treatment.


When Booker-Bingler first meets with her patients and suspects SAD, she asks: “How much sleep are you getting at night? How much exposure to light are you getting?”


These questions are important to her because she’s able to pinpoint the source of her patient's depression: a decrease in available sunlight.


“SAD can be serious, but it’s so treatable,” she said. “Light can change people’s lives.”


Besides anti-depressant medication, the most prevalent form of SAD treatment is light therapy. There are special bulbs patients can buy that mimic daylight. Booker-Bingler suggests sitting in front of them for 10-30 minutes during one’s morning routine.


“Once you’re exposed to a little more light, your symptoms start going away,” said Booker-Bingler. “You change your circadian rhythm back to normal.”


But if you’re not too keen on buying these so called “happy lights,” which can range anywhere from $40-200, there are free strategies that can be effective in fighting SAD.


Booker-Bingler suggests watching the sunset, going outside, going for a hike, playing with a dog, building a fort, drinking tea, playing sports, and surrounding yourself with friends.

And like with most cases of depression, it can be hard to practice these forms of self-care if the very nature of your depression makes it difficult to do so. But you must give them a shot — they’re the best tools you’ve got to “survive the winter.”

  • Published in News

8 Days: History Lessons, Musical Mayhem, Shaman Journeys and Straight Up Witchcraft



HISTORY LESSON | The Portland Public Library doesn’t want you to forget history. Like other educational organizations in the city, the folks there have been hosting some important discussions and events around racial justice through a historical lens. Tonight, as part of their Civil Rights Film Series, they’re screening the 1994 Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary, Freedom On My Mind. It follows a group of young activists in Mississippi as they fight for basic human rights in the '60s. Witness how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go when it comes to achieving equality.

| FREE | 6:30 pm | Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Sq., Portland | |


BATTLE OF THE SEXES | If you’re still fired up from the events of last week’s “Women’s March,” than you might love this upcoming film screening at the SPACE Gallery. Simply put, The Love Witch, is a badass feminist film, that defies genre tropes, understands the nuances of gender relations, and offers a impressive visual homage to the bygone era of '60s technicolor thrillers. Many could use a viewing of this thought-provoking (and critically acclaimed) exploration of female fantasies, pathological narcissism, and victim-fueled witchcraft.

| $8 | 7:00 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | |


GOODIES AND BADDIES | This world is essentially a battleground between good people, evil people and those that dance along the troubling lines of neutrality. From Shrek and Gandalf, to Darth Vader and Donald Trump, our fictional (and real life) world is littered with heroes and villains. Dress up as the one that resonates with you the most and wiggle to some dance jams courtesy of DJ Corbin from Atlantic Event Design. Awards will be given to the best, worst, punniest, and most obscure costumes.

| $6 | 8:00 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | |


PANIC ATTACK | The Charleston alternative country-rock band SUSTO is rolling through town to unleash their sophomore album & I’m Fine Today. They’re anti-Trump rockers who named their band after a Latin-American medical condition, and are committed to performing jams about “punching through life’s difficulties and learning to be comfortable with who you are as a person.” If a rock show’s capable of making you feel “one with the universe,” this might be it. They’re joined onstage by the indie-rock and dance jam blenders of Blue Healer.

| $12 | 8:00 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland | |



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BREAK THE CHAINS | Slavery is alive and well here in America. It has just taken on a new, insidious, and perfectly legal form.  Don’t believe me? Watch Ava DuVernay’s highly lauded documentary, 13TH, which is screening for free at USM. The film has served as a wake-up call for many that were once unaware of the racist agendas at play in America’s prison systems. Stay woke readers.

| FREE | 6:30 pm | Hannaford Hall, USM, Portland | |


8days Umphreys

SHARP SETS | Promising a master performance in jazz-fusion improvisation, Umphrey’s McGee’s From the Hip set has got people talking. Most aren’t sure what to expect from this concert, but are still confident they’ll be awestruck. These veteran musicians have been mixing bizarre but palpable musical concoctions (classical mixed with '70s reggae?) for almost 20 decades, so it’s safe to say they thrive outside of the comfort zone. They’re joined onstage by the jazz artist Joshua Redman, and the electro-funk “therapy band” SPAFFORD.

| $30 | 8:00 pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | |


CHASING FIREFLIES | Looking for a definitive answer on what contemporary American reggae sounds like? Look no further than John Brown’s Body, a band that’s been exploring lyrical themes beyond just religion and marijuana, for over two decades. They use the vocabulary of reggae to relate to their own personal experiences and are hailed as “future roots, reggae, and dub with an intricately balanced weaving of vocals, percussion, keyboard, bass, guitar, and stunning three-piece horn section that ties it all together.” The local outfit Raging Brass will take the stage first and fill the space with '60s Jamaican instrumentals.

| $15 | 8:00 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | |


BUILD BRIDGES NOT WALLS | If there was ever a truly unifying force in the world, it’s music. Bask in that solace tonight, as you hear the great Zapion perform works from Egyptian and Lebanese composers. Immerse yourself in classical Arabic music and remind others that learning about other cultures is exciting, enlightening, and necessary.

| $15 | 8:00 pm | Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland | |


EMO NIGHT | If your personal life, or just the general state of world affairs makes you feel like crying, maybe it’s time to deal with it the way you might have in highschool: by donning some black clothes, cranking up My Chemical Romance and calling yourself emo. You’ll get the chance to do just that at PHOME, where your favorite emo, pop-punk and post-hardcore hits will be blaring all night long. But maybe you should leave your real tears and fits of sadness at home; this night is about having fun.

| $10 | 8:00 pm | Portland House of Music, 25 Temple St., Portland | |




SPIRIT GUIDE | The local healer/spiritual guru Pia Louise Capaldi has planned something delightfully new-agey for this night: a guided shamanic journey of meditation and movement to discover your own creative energy and the personal process of working with it. Now I’m not sure what this event’s actually going to be like — I imagine drum circles, candles, and spirit animals will be involved — but isn’t that part of the fun? The uncertainty of entering a strange, yet harmonious space, and emerging lighter, empowered and more focused. But first, pay up; enlightenment doesn't come cheap.

| $35 | 5:30 pm | Hustle and Flow, 155 Brackett St., Portland | |


OUT ON ICE | Gay locals and their allies are throwing a party on Thompson’s Point complete with: an ice rink, a live DJ, food trucks, a cash bar, and a fire pit. Proceeds from this winter party will go to support EqualityMaine and GLSEN-Southern Maine’s programs to create safer schools for LGBT youth.

| $8 | 6:30 pm | Thompson’s Point, 10 Thompson’s Pt., Portland |


2ND ANNUAL, COLD COLD NIGHT | Dark times and cold nights are ahead of us. Stories can serve as an antidote to nastiness, a bright, warm flame in the night. Over 10 of Portland’s finest performers, songsmiths and all around brilliant minds will converge on the SPACE Gallery to fearlessly share what’s in their heart. What makes this city great, are the artistic and intellectual forces driving it; some things that will be on full display this night.

| $10 | 8:30 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | |


TRIPLE THREAT | Organizers at Empire have cooked up a hot show of “gritty, sassy, feely, schmaltzy rock,” by booking Bangor’s jukebox heroes, Marathon Man. They’ll be joined by local rabble rousers Mechanical Banshees and the Very Reverend. It’s time to get schwifty.

| $10 | 9:30 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | |




ALL THE FEELS | The performers at Maine Music & Health believe that our voices, and our community are stronger when they come together. Step into the peaceful space of Grace and lend your voice to a collective choir that aims to celebrate the values of love, resilience, diversity, compassion, equality. Stay vocal, and let love rule. This performance is also a call to action. After the concert you’ll be handed some resources to stay engaged, which might activate the inner-protester inside you. Join the resistance?  

| FREE | 2:00 pm | Grace, 15 Chestnut St., Portland | |




FOOD POLITICS | A new city initiative has launched and it’s called The Portland Food Council. Its members aim to foster a healthy community by shaping policy that will create resiliency, sustainability and vibrancy in the food system. But first, they need to hear community voices. Join them at the Fork Food Lab, alongside Mayor Ethan Strimling, Justin Alfond and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, and make your input matter.

| FREE | 4:00 pm | Fork Food Lab, 72 Parris St., Portland | |




OUR PARKS, OUR FUTURE | Most Mainers value the natural world as both a driver of economic growth, and an immensely beautiful force to be appreciated. USM invites you today to hear from David Evans Shaw, the founder of Idexx Labs and Shawn Gorman, L.L. Bean’s board chairman, about why national parks are essential.

| FREE | 5:00 pm | Hannaford Hall, USM, Portland | |


SHORT FORM NONFICTION | Tonight you’ll learn that brevity can be powerful. Featuring individual films, episodic series, deep dive investigations, and plenty of juicy interviews is the provocative documentary Field of Vision. Well actually, it’s a stretch to categorize it as a documentary, so I’ll settle for “cinematic project.” Either way, it tells engaging stories from multiple corners of the world, and should definitely be on your radar. The screening is followed by a live video chat with the co-creator and filmmaker AJ Schnack.

| $8 | 7:00 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | |




I AM GRUIT | I don’t care how much of a beer geek you think you are; the old gruit style is likely one you’re unfamiliar with. Get acquainted with its intense hop flavor and unique blend of local herbs and spices. The best ones will be on tap all day! Later in the evening, the head brewer of Gruit Brewing will host a workshop on the intricacies of this unique brew.

| FREE | 6:00 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland | |


8days BlindPilot PhotoByEricRyanAnderson

SOMBER BUT HOPEFUL | The acoustic, pop-rock band from the “other Portland,” Blind Pilot will showcase their new album And Then Like Lions to an eager crowd. It’s being hailed as an extremely visual, emotive and uplifting work. Postpone suffering by riding out its gorgeous arrangements and majestic climaxes. Their melodies are solid tools to feel stable in an ever-changing territory of loss. Think Mumford and Sons, but with an intelligent writer.

| $25 | 7:00 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | |


LOVE IS LOVE | The performers at Cast Aside Productions aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel with this show. They know the cliche, yet amorphous and mysterious concept of LOVE has been torn up and sewn together a million times in every art from. But they’ll still explore the complex emotion, with all of its ups and downs, through booze-fueled musical theater. It will likely be a compelling way to chase away the mid-week doldrums.

| FREE | 8:00 pm | Flask Lounge, 117 Spring St., Portland | |




8days pitchblakbrassband

PUSHING BOUNDARIES | What do you get when you mix hip-hop beats, multi-syllabic rhyming, lyrics that explore the struggle of the American black experience, and a full brass band? A powerful experience. Embark on the grand adventure that the PitchBlak Brass Band evokes when they explode on stage with their culturally significant, and sonically epic live show.

| $10 | 9:00 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | |

What Will Life Be Like Under Trump and LePage?

Here at The Phoenix, we’ve created this week’s slightly unsettling cover image of a face-swap of Governor Paul LePage and President Donald Trump to illustrate a commonly held perception: they’re basically the same person.


Sure, they come from different backgrounds — Trump from New York real estate, and Franco-American LePage from the Maine paper and lumber industries — but as political leaders, they share many similarities in terms of behavior, values, and proposed policies. Even LePage himself is quoted as saying, ‘I was Donald Trump before he became popular.”


If you’ve been paying any attention to the political arena these past few years, this isn’t news to you. Stories on the budding bromance between the two alongside comparisons of their character traits have popped up before in both local and national media. Long before we learned of the results of the election, we read articles by writers drawing connections between life in Maine under LePage and what a Trump presidency might look like.


So, if birds of a feather flock together, what kind of birds are we dealing with here? We spoke with two of the most publicly outspoken opponents of Paul LePage to see if we can make any predictions on what this first year under President Trump might be like, based on our experiences in Maine under LePage.


Brash, angry and unpredictable


Both Donald Trump and Paul LePage relish the fact that they “tell it like it is.” For Trump, that sometimes means mocking a disabled reporter (The New York Times' Serge Kovaleski, last June), or proposing a ban on all Muslims in response to attacks from domestically bred Islamic extremists. For LePage, that might mean pinning the entire heroin crisis in Maine on people of color named “D-Money and Smoothie coming into the state and impregnating young white women.” The point is, both are prone to saying controversial and generalized remarks, often times painting in broad strokes with huge groups of people — a use of inflammatory language that their emboldened supporters adopt online and morph into hate-speech and abusive rallying cries.


You just never know what to expect for either one of them,” said Ben Chipman during a phone interview with The Phoenix. “They’re both trying to shake things up, but not in a good way.”


Readers might remember Chipman as the Democratic member of the House of Representatives who led an unsuccessful effort to impeach LePage last year. When LePage used $530,000 of taxpayer money to blackmail Good Will–Hinckley, a 125-year-old charitable and nonprofit institution in Fairfield, into firing Maine Rep. Mark Eves the speaker of the house from the job he held there as president of a charter school, it was the final straw for Chipman, who felt that the governor had violated state law.  


“We tried to hold the governor accountable for his behavior,” said Chipman. “Enough is enough, at some point you’ve got to stand up and do the right thing.”


While both Trump and LePage love to “fire from the hip,” with often times inaccurate and offensive statements, their methods of going off-script differ.


Trump tends to post his rants and vitriolic attacks on Twitter, where 20 million followers instantly receive them, without any process of fact-checking or accountability. LePage however, is virtually silent on social media, and usually spews his contentious statements to friendly audiences on conservative radio stations.


This level of unpredictability is regarded by political pundits as bad news for the country. It makes our leaders look like tantrum-prone bullies, and encourages trolls to hurl abuse online and in the streets.


But, according to Mike Tipping, author of As Maine Went: Governor Paul LePage and the Tea Party Takeover of Maine, it also degrades the integrity of media in America, which leads us to our next point of comparison.


A messy relationship with the truth


Mike Tipping, who is also a member of the Maine People’s Alliance, has experience going toe-to-toe with Paul LePage. Back in October of last year, LePage said that Tipping “should be thrown in jail,” for his efforts in raising the minimum wage — an initiative that voters passed overwhelmingly when it was a ballot question in last November's election.


According to Tipping, you could pick a thousand different instances of LePage and Trump indiscriminately attacking people, and when the press covers these controversies piecemeal, it can have damaging effects. Often times writers will focus on the “next crazy thing that LePage said” instead of educating the public on the most prevalent issues at the core of those remarks: the heroin crisis, the housing bubble, the aging labor force, and affordable health care coverage.


“I think the media is getting played in a big way,” said Tipping. “There should just be a bigger story that says “LePage and Trump lie all the time,” with evidence to back it up.”


Tipping believe that instead of publishing every controversial statement Trump or LePage make, reporters should strive to fact-check their statements, hold them accountable, and report on their direct actions and opinions on policy. In other words, a frantically written 3:00 a.m. tweet is not newsworthy.


“They have a similar relationship with the truth, which seems to really have changed our political discourse, said Tipping. “They lie with impunity and are successful in changing the narrative in their favor. They can make their own reality. They feel like they don't need to be beholden to the facts and the reality that we all thought we shared.”


Tapping into “the silent majority”


A big similarity between Trump and LePage is simply the demographics of people that support them. Both leaders rose to power from the same constituency: the mythical, white working-class voter.


According to Chipman, their supporters come from the far-right and some vestiges of the Tea Party movement. They’re angry, estranged and are looking for a leader to shake up the establishment. These folks want change. They want less government spending and interference. They want their gun rights. And they want tougher laws on immigration. To get there, they’ll happily settle for leaders with racist, sexist, or xenophobic baggage.


“Clearly, we need to do something differently in this country,” said Chipman. “But that anger should be channeled into something positive. We need to look out for everybody.”


Back in 2014, after Maine’s gubernatorial election, local journalist Colin Woodard asked what many in Portland were thinking, “How did America’s Craziest Governor Get Elected?” Lately, those same people have wondered what led to the rise of Trump, and the answer’s the same: split votes in three-way races, and underestimating the rural vote. The people that got LePage re-elected also came out for Trump, and for them, crazy seemed better than business as usual.


According to Tipping, a big facet of our political landscape nowadays is a mistrust in institutions. He said when people have experienced the effects of a broken and rigged economy that’s stacked up against ordinary working-class people, they feel inspired by the messages of Trump and LePage, with their promises to “drain the swamp.” But Tipping feels that Trump’s just talking up a big game and is full of false authenticity.


“He’s not going to get any better,” said Tipping. “I don’t think the office of the presidency will shape him to be a better person.”


But as politically conscious Americans have witnessed these past couple months, Trump and LePage's promises of change often prove to be hollow. Instead of addressing the systems that keep people oppressed in America, leaders like Trump prefer cozying up to big industries to protect their business interests. Recently, he appointed climate change deniers to top positions in the EPA, and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, presumably to protect the oil, coal and natural gas industries.


Here in Maine, LePage getting cozy with outside interests over the will of the majority of Mainers took many forms. It started early, during his first year in office, when he hired a pro-BPA chemical lobbyist to oversee the Department of Environmental Protection.


Throughout his career, LePage has been known for cutting social safety net programs so the wealthy could get a tax break, or vetoing key legislation that could have helped the environment and stimulated the state’s clean energy economy. Because of LePage’s ideological commitment to shrinking government (which is shared with Trump), and his practices of refusing to accept federal money, cutting public spending and failing to invest in infrastructure, Maine’s economy has stalled, and job rates are still not above 2008’s levels.


People have been hurting here in Maine under LePage. His unyielding allegiance to dying industries like timber and paper have cost people their jobs. His mistrust in big government has denied Mainers a Medicaid expansion. And last year, a state auditor found that his administration improperly used $13 million dollars in federal funds allocated for impoverished children. 


Anxious Americans can hope that Trump is better with economics (like he says he is), and doesn't use the power of the presidency to protect or grow his business interests at the expense of the common good. But if they've learned anything about empty promises in politics, they know not to get their hopes up too high. 


An uncertain future looms


If there’s one thing that’s for certain about the current political climate, it’s that everything is uncertain.


Nobody really knows what a Trump presidency will play out like. But with Republicans controlling the majority of seats in both the House and the Senate, many on the left are worried about the future of social justice causes. Will a Muslim ban actually get passed? Will a wall rise up between the U.S. and Mexico? Who will stand up for LGBTQ rights? Will a new budget proposal gut Planned Parenthood of its federal reimbursements?


Here in Maine, with LePage having less than two years left in office, questions surrounding the future are fewer but just as pivotal. Mainers got a taste of LePage’s final plans when he released his fourth and final budget proposal. Controversial highlights of the proposed budget include shifting to a flat income tax of 5.75 percent by 2020, a sales tax on home repairs, no money allocated to fund marijuana legalization or school superintendents, a restructuring of funding for K-12 schools, and the elimination of the General Assistance Program.


“For me, the proposed budget is a nonstarter,” said Chipman. “People value and understand the importance of these social safety net programs. Who wants to see hundreds of people go homeless across the state?”  


Tipping too saw many problems with the proposed budget, the biggest ones being the restrictions on MaineCare and the elimination of GA, which are proposed to free up funds for a flat-income tax break that would save the wealthiest residents of the state thousands of dollars a year.


“It’s unfortunate to see for the families out there that are trying to scrape together money for rent and groceries,” he said.


Both Tipping and Chipman are cautiously optimistic about what life will be like under the combined leadership of Trump and LePage. So far, they said, things aren’t looking good.


“Under LePage, 50,000 people have lost their health-care coverage and have fallen through the cracks,” said Chipman. “Things have gotten worse in a lot of ways. I don’t think LePage and Trump as leaders are the best things for this country.”


  • Published in Features
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