Francis Flisiuk

Francis Flisiuk

News Briefs: Mayor Strimling joins climate coalition, Bayside bids go up, and a local activist announces a run for city council

Portland joins the coalition of cities pledging to uphold the Paris agreement

After President Trump stunned almost every scientist (and otherwise sensible American) when he pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord last week—which pushed for countries to reduce emissions in an attempt to hold the increase in global temperature to a 1.5 degrees Celsius—many concerned progressives in local government took the matter in their own hands.

A network of 187 “Climate Mayors” wrote and signed a statement on Medium last week, which pledged to “adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.”

The statement reads: We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks. The world cannot wait—and neither will we.

As we reported last week, Portland has already vowed to get all of their municipal operations running on clean energy by 2040, but according to Mayor Ethan Strimling, the city has also signed onto the “Mayors National Climate Action Agenda,” which might spell even more green initiatives for Portland. The city will be working to revamp it 2008 Climate Action Plan with updated goals and measurements.

“Thanks for your vigilance in the face of such insanity from the White House,” wrote Mr. Strimling on social media. “Think globally. Act locally.”

Eleven developers seek bids for unused land in Bayside

A Freedom of Information Access request to reveal the identities of the 11 developers that submitted bids to buy up a big 4.1-acre chunk of the Bayside neighborhood proved unsuccessful last week.

According to city spokesperson Jessica Grondin, the information on the bidding process is being kept confidential at the request of the developers because releasing it would “prejudice the City's competitive or bargaining position in the sale of the properties.”

Judging from the buzz generated after the news broke of these negotiations, there’s a lot of local interest in the future of these former Public Works properties. Groups like Progressive Portland are keeping a close eye on any news of these negotiations and will likely be present for any public comment whenever the city schedules such a forum.

“My understanding is that the city is going to winnow the proposals and then solicit public input,” said Steve Hirshon, the president of the Bayside Neighborhood Association. “To date, one development group has approached the Association about their fairly comprehensive proposal, so we are curious about what else is out there. BNA members, individually and as a group, have been supportive of housing on the sites that could have housing, particularly opportunities for owner-occupied housing, particularly ones with incentives for first-time buyers. We also support the adaptive reuse of the "General Store" (circa 1900 brick) and the former transportation building on Hanover Street.”

Many in Portland see the sale and redevelopment of those parcels of unused land as a key part to the overall plan to ensure Bayside’s vitality in the face of growing concerns of the neighborhood’s future and Portland’s affordable housing shortage in general.

“My first concern is that the development of the area includes at least some affordable or moderate-priced housing, which is the city's most pressing need,” said Patricia Washburn, a Bayside resident and member of Progressive Portland. “I would like to see it become an area that is attractive and inviting to local people and businesses. Almost anything would be more attractive than what is there now, but I would also like to see the city undertake this process in an atmosphere of transparency so voters can have a voice in what happens to a large piece of land on the peninsula.”

According to Greg Mitchell, director of Portland’s Economic Development Department, only three of the parcels of land are considered for affordable housing, because the other ones could be contaminated with industrial waste.

A lot of eyes are on Bayside because it’s often centered around a number of conversations about local social issues, most notably the effects of climate change (as Bayside is situated at the lowest point of the city) and the neighborhood’s proximity to social services like the Oxford Street Shelter and the Preble Street Resource Center.

A sizable immigrant population also calls the neighborhood home, alongside shopping hubs like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Bayside has also seen attempts to make the area more trendy and developed, like with the opening of the Fork Food Lab and the new Bayside Bowl rooftop patio.

Big development deals such as this one have the potential to affect the neighborhoods recent problems with flooding, skyrocketing rents, homelessness, gentrification, and a lack of affordable amenities for the people that live there.

Former USM multicultural head sues college over racism allegations

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Susan Hamilton protesting USM's decision to host Rep. Larry Lockman during an anti-immigration talk held last February. She's suing the college for wrongful termination. 

Local activist Susan Hamilton is suing the University of Southern Maine, her former employer, as first reported by the Bangor Daily News.

Back in 2015, USM fired the former head of the multicultural affairs department over allegations that she created a hostile work environment and acted aggressively when it came to discussing and teaching social justice issues like racism, gender rights, and white privilege.

Hamilton, who is half Native American, claims in the complaint that she was wrongfully terminated and that accusations that she harassed students and staff are “absurd and baseless.”

She will be suing USM for monetary damages but the college hasn’t received a copy of the lawsuit yet. Citing the early nature of this personal case, USM officials declined to comment. Attempts to reach Hamilton for a quote were also unsuccessful, but this story will be updated.

"The University of Maine System has not been served with a copy of the lawsuit and cannot comment on the allegations,” said Dan Demeritt, director of Public Affairs for the UMaine system (and former director of communications for Gov. Paul LePage). “Furthermore, it is unlikely that the university will have substantive public comment on campus practices, engagement initiatives, or personnel matters that are referenced in the litigation."

Bree LaCasse announces her bid for city council

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"I believe we must grow in a way that ensures Portland remains inclusive and distinct. That requires empathy and making genuine efforts to include a wide range of voices in the process," said Bree Lacasse.

Brightly colored campaign signs filled the space of Congress Square Park last Sunday as Bree LaCasse, a local activist, announced her bid for city council.

She’ll be running for the seat of the 2nd longest running city councilor, Jill Duson.

In 2014, LaCasse championed the fight against the city’s efforts to sell Congress Square Park and won.

The Congress Square Park issue was a wake-up call for Bree. “I’ve always had a vision of Portland as one of the greatest small cities in the world and I take action to realize that vision—from raising money for the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project to help new Mainers, to working to engage a new generation of young leaders at Portland Museum of Art, to leading the effort to stop the sale of Congress Square Park and transform it into a thriving community gathering place.”

LaCasse, who works in the non-profit and affordable housing sector, is running on a platform that calls for more transparency between the City Council and its constituents, which she believes will resonate with Portlanders across party lines.

“I want our citizens to feel heard again,” said LaCasse. “I’m a Democrat but I have proven my ability to bring people of all different perspectives—independent, green, red and all shades of blue—together around a shared vision. To make everyone feel valued and heard.”

Other issues she cares about include affordable housing, tax relief, and passing the 64 million dollar bond to repair four public schools.

“Councilor Duson chaired a special committee charged with tackling the problem of affordable housing just last year and came up with little more than a pamphlet,” said LaCasse. “People are being pushed out or leaving every day, and there is no more time to waste on half measures, foot dragging and indecision.”

As a mother of a first grader at Reiche Elementary (one of the schools needing infrastructure repairs), Bree said she was finally motivated to run for council at-large when longtime Councilor Jill Duson voted against the bond to repair all four elementary schools. “I realized at that moment, that we needed new leadership, with the demonstrated ability to listen, bring people together and get the job done,” said LaCasse. She adds that she'd been asked to run for years. 

Early endorsers of LaCasse include Board of Education members, Holly Seeliger, John Eder and past Board Chair Marnie Marionne, who said this of LaCasse, ”Bree has the vision to know that investing in quality education must be a top priority to allow Portland to retain and attract middle-class families and grow our tax base. "After serving on the Board of Education for nine years, I believe it is time to have a strong champion for our schools on the city council."

  • Published in News

From Calais To Key West: Russian Globetrotter Cycles Through Maine During A 2,100 Mile Journey

Lena Faber is on the first part of an epic journey from Calais, Maine to Key West Florida depending on nothing but the power of her legs and the hospitality of strangers.

Her route on the East Coast Greenway Alliance (a bicycle friendly network of roads and trails) is over 2,100 miles long and would take her 180 hours of non-stop cycling to complete. Although this trek would prove too daunting for many, this isn’t the first muscle powered adventure Faber has ventured on.

In fact, her time in recent years has been rooted in international travel, extreme self reliance, and tests of endurance.

Faber, a journalist from Moscow, lives in the countryside of South Africa outside Johannesburg. In 2009, she took up long distance running, and her life took a dramatic turn away from a sedentary lifestyle.

“I just started running, and I couldn’t stop,” said Faber. “I wanted to push myself farther and farther. To get from point A to point B with your own power is so gratifying.”

After winning a silver medal in the World Masters Athletic running championship in California, she decided to test her stamina through hiking. In 2013, she traveled to Peru where she hiked the holy mountain of Machu Picchu (elevation 7,972 ft.) completely alone. But she couldn’t leave South America without also boating down the length of the Amazon river.

And then in 2014, she hiked the entire 2,181 mile Appalachian Trail, starting in Georgia, and ending up on the top of Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Her solitary hike earned her the trail name “Brave,” from other hikers.

But then, after returning briefly to her home in South Africa, where she teaches Russian language and literature, cabin fever quickly started washing over Faber again.

“I just wanted to leave South Africa again,” said Faber. “Instead of sitting in a restaurant or on a boat drinking beer, I took off cycling.”

She made this decision in 2015 when she hopped on the first bicycle that would serve as her primary vehicle and integral part of her athletic lifestyle. Her first foray into extreme distance cycling? Faber cycled the entire 2,415-mile length of Route 66, which she described as an “outdoor museum of Americana,” starting in Illinois and ending in California. That same year, she flew to London so she could cycle 800 miles north to the mysterious Orkney Islands in Scotland.

It was during those trips that Faber realized that she could craft an entire lifestyle around traveling, camping, and exchanging work for hospitality.

“When I cycled Route 66, I wanted to give the people I met something, however much I could,” said Faber. “It’s not about money. If you think too much about money, you’ll be miserable. So I worked for my stay. It’s the only way to truly see and understand a country and its people.”

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Faber said that she tries to make the exchange between her and a potential host as easy and comfortable as possible. She carries a tent on her cross country travels and often asks locals for permission to pitch it in their backyard. Sometimes she’s offered a chance to sleep indoors, but no matter the sleeping situation, Faber makes sure to repay her host by babysitting, cleaning rooms, gardening, fixing fences, or washing the dishes.

“You can find many ways to make yourself useful,” said Faber.

According to Faber, she doesn’t have many anxieties when she’s traveling alone in strange lands, but the biggest stressor is finding accommodation.

“It scares me still because I don’t know where I’m going to sleep tonight,” said Faber.

So when Faber arrived in Calais, Maine for her latest adventure, she launched a website that might help ease her anxiety. It’s called, and it aims to create an online network where hikers, runners, backpackers, and cyclists can connect with locals who are willing to host them in exchange for work. Think of it as the CouchSurfing, or AirBnB for adrenaline junkies.

The first testimonials on her new website are written by Mainers who have hosted Faber on the first stretch of her journey from Calais to Portland.

“I have no problem if registered travelers pitch a tent on my grass,” wrote Percy Robinson, a lobstermen from Midcoast Maine. “Maybe they'll help me on my boat when we go lobstering.”

Several Mainers hosted Faber during her 245-mile ride from Calais to Portland, but perhaps the most interesting night was when she arrived in Freeport, where she slept in a display tent inside L.L. Beans 24/hour flagship store.

Faber said she’s unsure of where she’s going to sleep as she continues forward on her next big stretch towards Boston, or if her website will take off and become successful, but regardless, she’s determined to try.

“I don’t know what I’m doing this for,” she said. “I just want to pedal. I can’t stop.”

Follow Lena Faber along on her journey at, and check out her budding hospitality network at  

  • Published in Sports

An Interview with Jill Stein: Russian conspiracies, Ranked Choice Voting, and the Future of Democracy

Last week, former Green party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein visited Augusta for the Maine Greens Convention, where she thanked her supporters for "leading the charge" on progressive issues like food sovereignty, ranked choice voting, climate change, and the legalization of marijuana. She opened her speech by spurring the crowd to "keep fighting the neoliberal assault" and encouraging others to vote on values instead of fear. 

Stein spoke with The Phoenix ahead of her Maine visit where she shared her thoughts on the future of the resistance, the Trump-Russia conspiracy, and liberal criticism hurled at her in recent weeks. After over 100 days of President Trump, how's the Green side looking? In Stein's words, "the battle continues." Below is an abridged version of our interview. 

What was the purpose of your Maine visit?

It’s great to reconnect with Greens in Maine at a time where the Green party is really going gangbusters across the nation. So many people are throwing in the towel with the political system that has thrown everyday working people under the bus. It’s a great time to be Green. We’ve been ahead of the curve on clean energy, on nonviolent conflict resolution, on free higher education, and healthcare as a human right. The curve has caught up to us in a big way.

How do you energize people to vote for a third party?

In my experience, it’s all about just getting the word out. There is a political alternative that’s not predatory. People are so cynical of the political system right now. About 45 percent of eligible voters didn't bother to vote. Many of the other voters were voting against the candidate they hated the most.

Even (in) our so-called progressive political party, its essential core values are not what everyday people need. Getting out, talking with people, getting people a sense that when we get together we have the numbers, the vision, and the power to change our future.

Just the number of people locked into student debt alone would have been enough to win a three-way presidential race. Most people don’t see that they have a future under the current system. (They're encouraged) when they hear of a political party that isn’t funded by big banks and fossil fuel giants and war profiteers, that it’s really all about everyday people.

People are ready to stand up and take their votes back when they have nothing to vote for. But we need to give people choices.

The media fuels that binary as well, don’t you think, considering how little coverage your campaign received compared to Trump and Clinton.

In the words of the head of CBS (CEO Leslie Moonves), Donald Trump may not be good for the country but he sure is good for my bottom line.

That’s a scary quote. 

It’s so true, though. The chickens have come home to roost. This president is not good for the country. He’s the toxic product of a toxic system. People have just lost faiths in the institutions that democracy depends on and we don’t fix it by demonizing the people that are standing up and saying that we have a problem. We need to get the predators out of the way.

What would you say you learned the most during your campaign? Anything useful for future Green party strategies?

I think what we learned is that if we keep our eyes on the prize, and if we build it, they will come. What we saw—especially when the Democratic party turned on Bernie Sanders—was a huge influx. The floodgates opened based on the commitments that we made to people, planet, and peace. We established the integrity, that we are not bought and paid for, we’re the one national political party that isn’t poisoned by corporate money, lobbyists, and super PACs.

We are seeing the party growing like wildfire right now.

It’s hard to keep up with all the scandals coming out of the White House nowadays. Is there a particular part of Trump and his direction that’s the most troubling to you? Do you think this whole Russia conspiracy is a dead end and ‘the resistance’ should be focusing their efforts elsewhere? 

The Russia thing is a substantial distraction from the Democrats' humiliating defeat. It’s a way for them not to examine what caused them to lose the election. And the embarrassing revelations of the DNC leaks were exactly that. They rather talk about Russia than attend to what the problem was.

Had they not been engaging in sabotage and subterfuge there would be no problems. In some ways, it’s a big distraction. But it’s interesting with the apparent obstruction of justice with Donald Trump and his effort to fire Comey and interfere with the judiciary, who knows what he’s covering up. It could be collusion with Russian government or oligarchs. Trump’s done his best to pull a veil over his financial deals and history.

We need to know more about this imposter in the White House. His efforts to cover up is what is leading this forward more so than any particular smoking gun. The cover up could be worse than any crime.

This president is proving his incredible incompetence every day.

Do you think the prospect of impeachment is becoming more likely?

Impeachment is neither simple or a solution because then we have to deal with Mike Pence.

The issue here, in my view, is that democracy is under attack, and Donald Trump is a symbol of that. He’s not the cause, he’s the symptom and the disease; he makes it worse.

Our basic institutions are under attack and we should not diminish the seriousness of it. That’s what we should focus on, instead of the day-to-day melodramas.

We need to turn the tipping point into a breaking point. We can’t go back to the norm of the neoliberal democrats, which essentially is what got us into this mess, by inflicting austerity on everyday people, deregulating the financial predators, and shipping our jobs overseas.

It’s not about going back, it’s about creating a grassroots people revolution that provides us an America that works for all of us.

What’s the story behind that photo of you having dinner with Michael Flynn and Putin? Are you cozy with the Russians as the mainstream media would have people believe?

I’ve told many reporters about it, but they refuse to publish it because if any of the facts come out behind the photo it completely destroys their smear campaign. The facts undermine the mythology. That photo came at the end of a day in which I presented on a panel of diplomats, largely from the EU, in a dialogue about the nature of U.S. and Russian relations.

I went there explicitly to challenge the war-mongering going on not only by U.S. but by Russia, who had just joined in the bombing campaigns in Syria. I was there to deliver a message calling specifically for a peace offensive in the Middle East, and to tell Russia that they were following the footsteps of a catastrophic American policy. This endless war in the Middle East is making us less secure. That was my message. I thought I could deliver it personally to Putin by being at that table.

I did meet Michael Flynn. I didn’t know who he was. He introduced himself to me before we sat down. I gave him my elevator speech about the peace offensive. He was not interested, so I was not interested in talking with him. Our conversation was over in about two sentences.

I spent the dinner talking with the German former foreign minister about how we can help build collaboration for an alliance for peace. You’ve got to talk to your adversaries. I wasn’t the only peace advocate there. I was there to criticize Russia. 

The media can be ruthless, that must have been frustrating. 

It was actually a good sign. First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win. In one week I was attacked by Rachel Maddow and Kellyanne Conway, and I thought, ‘wow, we have arrived.’

It was nothing short of a lame smear campaign.

Speaking of smear campaigns, how would you respond to the comments that you stole votes away from Hilary and contributed to the rise of Trump?

The people who really put Trump in power were the people voting against Clinton. If I wasn’t there, even more people would have voted for Donald Trump. Maine has shown that the solution to a compromised democracy is not to silence political opposition. We need a system of ranked choice voting that makes us lead the way with our values.

We need to pass it in 50 states and include the presidential election. The minute we do that, suddenly they lose their fear campaign and they cannot try to silence political opposition, which is what the naysayers are doing here.

The votes that came in for my campaign would not have made a difference for Clinton, and there are very good studies on this from the exit polls. Over 60 percent of Greens simply would not have voted.

We have a solution, ranked choice voting.

How do the millions of Americans who voted for Trump factor into future Green strategies? How do you turn a Trump supporter into a Green voter? 

It’s not hard. History tells us that people are subject to demagoguery and neo-fascism when they’re really desperate and thrown under the bus. That’s Trump’s demographic. There are some racist nutcakes out there, but we’ve always had them. What’s new here is the working people who have lost their jobs don’t have a college education. As their income and opportunities plummet, their desperation skyrockets. These are people who are truly depressed. Middle-aged white people who might be going through suicide, addiction, alcoholism.

That white working-class population has really been hung out to dry. What do they need? They need what the Green party has always been talking about and that is the right to a job. A guaranteed job at a living wage.

How would you put them to work?

We could transform our economy to address the climate crisis, solving two problems with one solution. There are jobs in renewable energy. We need to move into a peacetime green energy footing, and convert those industries. We could put the unemployed back to work with a living wage with union protections as well as health care under a Medicare for all system that ensures prosperity. Who doesn’t want that? We can do this by cutting the bloated and dangerous military budget.

This is a win-win. When working people and Trump supporters realize that they’ve got somebody on their side, they will stand up. This is the reason why Bernie Sanders would have beat Donald Trump. People voted for Trump out of desperation and because they didn't have a progressive alternative.

This biggest way people give up power is by not knowing they have it to start with.

Francis Flisiuk can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Published in News

Clean Energy: Too Expensive? Or Our Only Choice?

In order to spare future generations the devastating environmental and health effects of climate change, many scientists say we must stop using virtually all fossil fuels by 2050.

If you think that’s a tall order, it is, but several cities across the U.S. — like San Diego, Burlington, and Aspen (as well as big corporations like Apple, Google, and Coca Cola) have stepped up to the plate and pledged to cut fossil fuels from their energy diet.

That includes our city of Portland, Maine, where the mayor and several city councilors presented a resolution to get the city running on 100 percent clean energy by 2040.

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Jack Doherty of ReVision Energy installs a solar panel onto the roof of Maine Historical Society's offsite collections management facility in Portland Wednesday, Apr. 18. Photo By Dan D’Ippolito / Maine Historical Society

You're going to see some significant changes in Portland over the next 10 years,” said Spencer Thibodeau, the chair of the sustainability and transportation committee who drafted the resolution — essentially a revamp of the council’s 2007 Climate Action Plan. “We need to do this.”

I’ve previewed what those changes will be in this feature, as well as some of the challenges in implementing them, but first, an important question:

What is clean energy?

One of the tricky parts in drafting clean energy policy is that people often hold different understandings of what it is, sometimes regarding renewable energy as synonymous with green or sustainable energy.

While the terms do have some overlapping meanings, there are some key differences, mostly involving the source of the energy.

For example, wood is a renewable resource, but does that mean pellet stoves produce clean energy? Not a chance.

Green energy is an umbrella term that’s mostly used for marketing purposes. A supermarket can “go green” by recycling its waste and minimizing electricity usage, but technically so can a big oil company by installing a couple wind turbines. Those in the thick of alternative energy conversations, like Frank Heller at Katahdin Energy Works, don’t have much faith in the term, as it simply means that some steps were taken to minimize a carbon footprint.

“Even energy is confused by people who don’t separate ‘fuels’ from the energy they produce and the processes they use to transform fuel into either heat or electricity,” said Hellar. “There's a lot of wiggle room as far as what clean energy is and what another person thinks it is.”

'Sustainable' is more of an economic term while 'renewable' refers to the energy source itself. Burning wood for heat is technically renewable, seeing as wood’s both natural and plentiful, but it’s not sustainable because the process of planting more trees and harvesting more wood wouldn’t last indefinitely on a grand scale.

Clean energy is derived from renewable natural sources and doesn’t produce any harmful byproducts. It comes in three basic flavors: wind, solar, and water (or hydroelectric) and Portland dreams of utilizing all three. But is that possible?

Switching out the lights

The city’s sustainability coordinator, Troy Moon, told me that the first step in any initiative is to become more efficient.

And getting Portland on track to 100 percent clean energy starts with replacing the 6,800 high-pressure sodium city lights with LEDs.

Mood said that this will drastically reduce energy consumption by potentially as much as two-thirds.

“They're going to significantly change how the city is lit,” said Moon. “We're working with a consultant contractor called 10 Collected Solutions. They'll help us do the switch out by hopefully later this summer.”

According to Stouch Lighting, a lighting efficiency blog (yes, such things exist), LEDs have several advantages over their 1970s era sodium counterparts. For starters, they have virtually no warm-up time, which is perfect considering how often public lights need to be dimmed or turned on and off. LEDs are also cheaper to maintain, easier to dispose of safely (the sodium ones tend to burn), and waste much less on energy through excess heat. They last longer too, up to 100,000 hours longer.

On top of all that, sodium lights have the worst color spectrum on the market (think that hazy, yellow glow) while LEDs open up all the colors on the spectrum with their bright, white waves. Should Moon's plan come to pass, Portland’s literally going to look more vibrant at night, while reducing the energy needed to light up the city.

The only downside to this bright future is that the start-up costs for installing 6,800 LEDs is quite expensive; replacing one bulb costs anywhere from $800 to $1,000. “We’re negotiating with CMP right now,” said Moon. “Hopefully the city will buy out all the old lights.”

Lights outside are a good start, but what about inside?

Cleaning up the electrical grid

According to ISO New England, the non-profit corporation responsible for keeping electricity flowing through six states, natural gas makes up about 50 percent of the New England power grid, nuclear about 31 percent, and renewables around 10 percent.

The organization released their annual “regional electricity outlook report” earlier this year, in which executives noted that fuel security is at risk in New England because there are concerns about the ability of natural-gas-fired generators to dependably access adequate fuel during winter cold snaps.

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Graphic from ISO New England's "Regional Electricity Outlook Report." This chart shows how the source of energy for New England's power grid has changed over time.

This puts reliability at risk and drives up costs, but according to the report, so does the push toward natural gas and renewables.

“At the heart of the problem are factors that the ISO has been warning about for some time now but does not have the authority to directly address,” said board chair of ISO New England, Philip Shapiro. “Natural gas-fired power plants can’t always access adequate gas because natural gas transportation and storage infrastructure haven't kept pace with demand from the electricity sector.”

“Actions being taken or considered by the states to reach those goals, meanwhile, may inadvertently undercut the ability of the wholesale marketplace to continue delivering on its promise of securing reliable, competitively priced electricity for New England today and into the future.”

While ISO New England has been actively refining systems and market rules to integrate renewable resources, the CEO and President Gordon Van Welie said in the report that the “region is decades away from installing enough renewable resources.”

“For the foreseeable future, the region will require resources such as natural-gas-fired units that can do what wind and solar resources cannot: make large contributions to meeting regional electricity demand; run in any type of weather and at any time of day; quickly change output levels; and provide essential grid stability services.”

The experts over at ISO New England have been grappling with the same dilemma that environmental sustainability advocates here in Portland (and beyond) have been for decades: how do you balance a competitive market that relies on fuel security with meeting state carbon-reduction goals?

Solar power in Portland and beyond

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Sunrise on Casco Bay. Photo By: Teresa Flisiuk.

Many think that solar has both the potential to meet society’s voracious energy demands and help lower our carbon footprint.

But while folks like Troy Moon would love to see more solar panels and wind turbines powering and heating homes in Portland, they say that it won’t overtake natural gas anytime soon.

Although building and installing solar panels is getting cheaper every year (GTM research reports that back in 2008 it cost about $8 a watt; now it’s down to half that, and still falling), solar power generates just .4 percent of America’s electricity.

“We certainly have a lot of rooftops that would be suitable for solar panels,” said Moon. “But we don't have that much open space. We don't have enough footprint in Portland to give enough solar capacity.”

And although solar technology is getting cheaper, and saves up to $18,000 in energy costs over 20 years, the upfront installation costs around $12,000, much more than the average person is willing to pay, which is why we won’t see much solar powering residential areas.


Organizations like Efficiency Maine and the Natural Resources Council of Maine work relentlessly to push policies that incentivize solar technology in spite of the LePage-appointed members of the Public Utilities Commission who would rather roll back progress. Despite the opposition, these organizations have helped over a dozen municipalities in Maine build solar arrays.

Members of the NRCM gathered at the State House in Augusta last week to rally behind LD 1373, An Act to Protect and Expand Access to Solar Power in Maine, a bill that would protect net metering and re-establishing Maine’s solar energy rebate program for small businesses and low-middle-income Mainers. According to them, more solar power in Maine wouldn’t just be a big step toward a clean energy future, but it would stimulate job growth—indeed, according to a recent Vox article, there are now twice as many solar jobs in the U.S. than coal jobs.

“Maine is at a critical crossroads on solar power,” said Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Solar power presents an opportunity to expand our economy, protect our environment, create jobs, and lower energy costs. But the PUC (Public Utilities Commission) net-metering rollback is so extreme that it includes a new tax on solar. (It's) akin to utilities charging people who use less electricity an extra fee because they dry their clothes on a clothesline. Inaction by the Legislature, combined with the anti-solar action by the Public Utilities Commission, threatens to move Maine further backward.”

Here in Portland, two big solar initiatives are nearing their final stages.

Last month, after fundraising $400,000, the city worked with Revision Maine to install over 300 solar panels to power the Portland Public Library and the Maine Historical Society. This is the first time that the National Endowment for the Humanities has funded a solar project ($300k of a $400k project) designed to support the long-term preservation of historical materials.

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Zach Good of ReVision Energy installs a solar panel onto the roof of Maine Historical Society's offsite collections management facility in Portland Wednesday, Apr. 18. Photo By: Dan D’Ippolito/Maine Historical Society

The same is planned for City Hall with another solar array (first proposed in 2015) propping up on the Ocean Avenue landfill sometime this summer. It’s estimated the operation will cost the city over $1.5 million and power 3.5 percent of municipal operations.

“We would need 120 acres of solar panels to power all of our municipal operations,” said councilor Thibodeau. “That’s why we need to diversify.”

(Check out all the other ways the Portland’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee plans to reach their clean energy goal in the sidebar.)

But what about wind power?

feature windfarms Peter KirkeskovRasmussenviaFlickr

Photo by Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen via Flickr.

Not looking good, according to Moon. He said that Portland’s not in a good spot to truly harness the free and awesome power of the wind. He’s arrived at this point after analyzing data from a Peaks Island study that built a special tower and measured the wind over the course of a year.

“Unfortunately it wasn't suitable,” said Moon. “There's not enough wind. Maybe on some small applications but not on a grid scale.”

There could be opportunities further offshore, or elsewhere along the Maine coast for wind farms, but some think, with Gov. LePage put off by the big investment, progress on it has stalled.

Jon Voight from Maine Marine Composites told The Portland Press Herald that Maine “missed a great opportunity” back in 2012 when the Norwegian company Statoil proposed a $120, wind farm project off of Boothbay Harbor but left Maine after LePage forced them to revisit the deal.

“The Governor has blocked so much policy that six years in, Maine finds itself falling behind as clean energy technology advances and other states modernize their policies to fit the new reality,” said Judy Berk from the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Challenges lie ahead

The biggest challenges to transitioning Portland (and Maine in general) into a low-carbon community is balancing costs and accessible technologies.

For example, according to Moon, the city is looking to electrify its fleet of city vehicles (only four are electric cars now), but the technology isn’t quite yet there for heavier vehicles like snowplows or construction equipment.  

“It's difficult to say if we're going to move to 100 percent electric vehicles in the short term,” said Moon. “We need to be able to have enough equipment and be strategic with where we put our money.”

“How are you going to power a plow truck with electricity?” asked Thibodeau. “That technology doesn’t exist today. It will develop over time.”

So, like with most big barriers in life, the issue is money. While huge investments toward renewable energy have paid off in the long run—take Norway, Las Vegas, and Rockport, Missouri, three examples of communities powering 95 percent of their operations with hydroelectric, wind, or solar power respectively—there are still plenty of Mainers who aren’t ready to foot the initial, admittedly massive bill toward these technologies.

“We need to focus on getting the grid that runs our society to be based on clean energy,” said Moon. “But we can't do it all ourselves. There needs to be state and federal policy and action at the utility level.”

And there might be yet another big speed bump on the road to a completely green future.

Addressing the culture of consumption

Frank Heller, the owner of Katahdin Energy Works, is very much a clean energy advocate. He’s outfitted 75 homes and businesses with solar and hydropower in Maine. Heller said that there are downsides to consider when it comes to alternative energy.

According to Heller, you can’t balance cost and energy generation without factoring in consumption. How much energy are people actually using?

“This fuels policy,” he said. “Unfortunately, our energy consumption has gone up.”

Heller gave me an example of this increase with a story of a Bowdoin dorm. In 2015, it was outfitted with LED fixtures to become more energy efficient, but because the electricity usage inside was so high (the damn college kids kept all their tech plugged in), the building ending up being less efficient.

Heller said that he knows plenty of people who “live off the grid” — some in boats year-round docked in marinas — they're highly conscious and conservative of their consumption habits paying careful attention to when something’s plugged in, and for how long it’s plugged in. This lifestyle, he says, would run contrary to many people’s ideas of modern comforts, and the very nature of our culture of consumption.

“It's that kind of ethos that permeates a lot of these discussions,” said Heller. “And that's the conundrum.”

Before signing off our telephone discussion, Heller offered two more bits of cautionary advice to those gungho about clean energy: don’t rush into it without doing the economics, and figure out if your initiatives will have an actual measurable impact on climate change. Citing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which did lower CO2 emissions measurably, Heller asks, But did it mitigate any global warming?

“Nobody knows,” he said. “I've watched these fads come and go.”

Although he doesn’t believe there’s a scientific consensus linking CO2 emissions and temperature change, and keeps a little chunk of coal on his desk (true story), Heller does believe climate change is happening. He just thinks humans will be able to adapt to it without much trouble.

“There are people who sell fears and crises, and then the causality is lost in the hysteria,” said Heller. “They exaggerate these worst case scenarios.”

The issue of adapting to climate change is of course complex. While Heller's optimism may prove prescient regarding Maine's ability to adapt, we've already seen multiple reports this year of third world countries ravaged by stronger storms and higher tides. Some island nations in the Pacific, like the Maldives or the Republic of Kiribati, could literally be swallowed whole by the ocean. According to a report from the University of East Anglia, climate change puts over 1.3 billion people at risk, many of whom live in poor countries with an economy dependent on agriculture. 

That’s not to say that Heller thinks we should do nothing. He does support Portland’s clean energy plan, but stressed that our society also needs to work on addressing the root cause of the issues raised in this article, primarily our culture of excess consumption.

“It would be very interesting to see how much gasoline people in Portland use,” Heller joked.

Heller shared some pretty ambitious alterations to our culture and its relationship with consumption and energy. These included installing floating housing units on Back Bay (he called it seascaping), harvesting more food from the ocean, building more hydroelectric plants on surrounding rivers, looking into tidal power, and encouraging residents to live on boats.

“A blend of constant hydroelectric/tidal power with some micro solar grids is definitely a possibility for Portland,” he said.

Whether you take the activist view, like Moon or Thibodeau, that climate change is a serious urgent threat or the cautiously optimistic adaptive approach like Heller, one aspect of the clean energy debate is settled and even bolstered by current market forces: in a planet of finite resources, utilizing renewable energy sources is the only future.

“If we don’t do what we’re doing, we’d see more floods and we’d be losing money,” said Thibodeau.

Want to write angry words at me for not even mentioning the contentious nuclear power issue? My email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Portland’s Progress Toward 100 Percent Clean Energy:

feature spencerthibodeau

Spencer Thibodeau the chair of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee.

It’s important to note that these goals only go toward making the city’s municipal operations (government, schools, parking enforcement) reliant on clean energy, not the residential and private sectors. But damn, wouldn’t it be utopian if every resident lived sustainably?

Create a Green Team - Ongoing

Sustainable Behavior Campaign for Employees: Not Started Yet

Foster Student Support - Ongoing

Environmental Preferable Purchasing - Not Started Yet

Educational and Informational Partnerships - Ongoing

Update Emissions Inventory - Ongoing

Conduct Public Outreach - Ongoing

Comprehensive Energy Audits - Complete

Explore an Energy Service Company -  Complete

Upgrade lighting, HVAC, and water - Complete

Adopt Comprehensive Energy Policy - Not Started

Adopt Green Building Standards for City Buildings - Complete

Purchase Renewable Energy Credits - Ongoing

Explore Small Scale Solar Energy Generation (Ocean Ave. Landfill) - Complete

Reduce Fuel Consumption From City Fleet - Ongoing

Route Optimization Software - Not Started

Enforce Anti-Idling Policy - Ongoing

Transportation Demand Mgmt for Employees - Ongoing

Retrofit Streetlights to LED - Ongoing

Upgrade Pumps and Pump Stations - Ongoing


8 Days A Week: Sexy Geeks, Strange Storytellers, and the Return Of At Least Three Local Legends



WATER WORLD | Do you care about the health of our oceans but know precious little about them? A film, titled Ocean Frontiers III, is screening this week and will illuminate the most pressing threats and challenges to marine conservation. As residents of a coastal city, it’s imperative that we discuss these issues and empower those fighting for a sustainable ocean future. A panel of regional experts will lead an interactive discuss after the credits roll, so stick around.

| FREE | 6:30 pm | University of Southern Maine, Hannaford Hall, 88 Bedford St., Portland |


THEY’RE BACK | The four-piece acoustic bluegrass band Northwood return to Blue this week for their monthly residency. If you’re looking for a chill, free (leave a donation if you’re a nice person), and casual live performance paired with a burger or beer, this is the ticket.

| DONATION BASED | 7 pm | Blue, 650A Congress St., Portland |


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Caroline Spence and Connor Garvey, two folk musicians that easily double as poets.

GET PENSIVE | The award-winning troubadour and simply lovely singer/songwriter Caroline Spence is showcasing her latest folk/Americana album Spades and Roses today. Her wispy vocals float above her rich arrangements and heavy narratives of love, loss, and existential moments. Real country music comes from the heart, and Spence seems to be keenly aware of that. She’s joined by Portland’s own poetic folk storyteller, Connor Garvey.

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


FRESH, YET RETRO | New York City’s a veritable melting pot of artists trying to carve out a name for themselves. It seems that Tash and Chris from the hard-hitting rock band The London Souls are halfway there. They’ve been unloading their classic Zeppelin-like riffs, Beatles-esque melodies, and decisively funky grooves since 2008, garnering praise from serious music critics and rock zombies alike. But they still do their thang relatively under the radar. Their intoxicating blend of both old and new approaches to rock-n-roll works; go see them when they play on the same bill as When Particles Collide and Midwestern Medicine.

| $18 | 9 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland |




PEDALING ART | Bike your ass over to the Portland Museum of Art this week. Why? Because apart from the fact that gazing at fine art is a dependable way to slow the tides of existential dread, there are some bicycle-related goodies outside! The Bicycle Coalition of Maine and CycleMania will be right outside the museum offering free tune-ups, a chance to win a brand new L.L.Bean bike, and a "make-a-take" art project that will make your two-wheel ride even spiffier.

| FREE(ISH) | 5 pm | Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Sq., Portland |



Jay Bragg, a former Portlander, is coming home to debut two new singles ahead of his first solo record in the fall. 

MUSICAL JOURNEY | Jay Bragg, formerly of the “outlaw country” duo North of Nashville is coming home. He left Maine last year to set up shop in Nashville, Tennessee, evolve as a country artist, and satisfy his musical curiosity with the question: “what would it sound like if Merle Haggard wrote music with Ed Sheeran?” He’s bringing back what he’s learned from the humid heartland during this homecoming show at Empire, the same venue where Bragg released his first album 10 years ago. Welcome back! The Welterweights join him.

| $10 | 8 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland |


KOMBUCHA ROCK | Portland’s reliable. You can expect a low-key but enjoyable brewery show somewhere in the city almost once a week. This time, the fuzzy Americana band Milk, and South Portland’s lo-fi indie rockers Million Dollar Lounge, are set to perform at the Urban Farm Fermentory.

| $8 | 8 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland |


FRISKY FANDOMS | Would you ever describe the dragons from Game of Thrones as sexy? How about the Stormtroopers from Star Wars, or Caesar from Planet of the Apes? Drop dead gorgeous right? Probably not. You might think that sexy’s not often synonymous with fantasy universes (or the people obsessed with them) but the performers of the Suicide Girls Blackheart Burlesque show are here to challenge your narrow perceptions. They’re putting a geeky twist on classic burlesque with a show chock full of sultry women and pop culture references. Has this show been inspired by a teenage boy’s midnight fantasies? Regardless, we’re into it.

| $20 | 8 pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland |


STAR IN THE MAKING | Quinn Sullivan used to be known simply as “the kid with a guitar.” That was back in 2006 when he enamored audiences on The Ellen Degeneres Show. After that, in 2007, the legendary blues guitarist Buddy Guy asked Sullivan to join him on stage during a live performance. Since that brief mentor moment, Sullivan’s amassed some impressive musical experience, from sharing the stage with the Roots and Eric Clapton to playing at storied venues like the Hollywood Bowl and the Madison Square Garden (and making even more late-night television runs). This dude’s success is inspiring; he’s been playing music over 10 years and he’s only 18! Cheer on this eager youngster from Massachusetts as he rocks the house at Aura and showcases what he’s learned from some of rock’s legends.

| $10 | 9 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland | |




AUDREY’S ALIVE | David Worobec’s hosting one of his whimsical and musically rich miniature puppet shows this week (he’s a trained opera singer, ya know?), a production he calls the Tophat Theater, performed, essentially, in his house. This time he’s taking on the classic dark comedy The Little Shop of Horrors. Aren’t you curious to see what the bloodthirsty plant looks like in tiny puppet form?

| DONATION BASED | 7 pm | Tophat Productions, 44 Carleton St., Portland |


BEER ME UP | Finally a rally people from both sides of the aisle can get behind: a rally dedicated to beer! Shipyard and the American Home Brewers Association invites you to come party with them and get an exclusive tour of their brewery on Newbury Street. Gulp down your favorite pours, learn about the brewing process, and win some prizes. Who doesn't love swag and gift certificates? ACHBA members get in for free, but you can sign up to be a member at the event, and if you're crazy about beer, or ever wanted to start brewing your own, we highly recommend you consider joining the club. 

| VARIED | 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm | Shipyard Brewing, 86 Newbury St., Portland | | 


OH FUNK YES | Lyle Divinsky, who’s been doing amazing things around the country touring with his outfit The Motet, is returning to Portland to join the band that helped launch his deliciously groovy career, Model Airplane. Opening for them is the Jason Spooner Band. Don’t miss the “Sasquatch of Soul,” because he’s a free funky spirit, and who knows when he’ll return to Maine again!

| $18 | 8 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland |


BLACK METAL ACTIVISM | Hey, maybe not all men are trash? The dudes at Last Mercy Emissions are hosting a hard rock/metal concert where a portion of the proceeds will go to support Planned Parenthood, a health organization that’s literally a lifesaver for thousands of women across the country. They need our support now more than ever. You can help PP (in an admittedly roundabout and totally removed kind of way) by thrashing around to the sonic nightmares of Apollyon, SIRE, Brazen Gate, and Imipolex.

| $8 | 9 pm | Geno’s Rock Club, 625 Congress St., Portland |




SCREW PHYSICS | Gravity’s a scientific law; its effects can be observed across the breadth of the universe, influencing the movement of planets, stars, black holes and even entire galaxies. It’s truly eternal. Yet, the Earthling artists at Circus Maine don’t seem to be bothered by this mysterious and ubiquitous force. With their high-flying acrobatics, juggling, tight-rope walking, and aerial stunts, they’re basically going to be saying “f*ck you” to gravity. And it’s a delight to watch.

| $15 | 4 pm | Circus Maine, 4 Thompson’s Pt., Portland |


BEND AND BREWS | Practicing yoga’s been in mainstream Western culture for so long, it’s kind of lost its edgy hipster coolness. But if a yoga class is held in one of Portland’s most popular breweries, and is paired with a delicious Bissell beer, then it wins back some relevance points with the millennials — get with the times, older readers. Kay Cynewski from The Northeast Yogi is leading a one-hour class on vinyasa flow yoga (heads up, it’s challenging) that ends with you gulping down your favorite pour.

| $30 | 5:30 pm | Bissell Brothers, 4 Thompson’s Pt., Portland |


8days weakenedfriends

Local indie-rock band Weakened Friends (pictured above) join Old Etc. this week for a reunion show.

THE RETURN | Is it just a coincidence that some of our favorite local bands (that left us, or in this case, broke up) are returning home for special shows all in the same week? How fortuitous. This time, I’m referring to Biddeford’s cathartic indie-rock band Old Etc. They’re reuniting to play their well-reviewed, highly emotive, and majestic rock album Forever. Come sing, laugh, and cry with them one last time. Portland’s Weakened Friends, Bangor’s Wait, and Manchester’s Badfellows, are also scheduled to cause some mayhem.

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




VERSES VS. VERSES | If you end up having a shitty Monday (which is quite typical), a good story might help you forget about it. Stories clear up the cobwebs in your head. It’s why you should check out this monthly reading series at Blue, hosted by the Portland songwriter Chris Robley. He’s invited a solid trio of local wordsmiths to share their work during a night of poetry, prose, and music. This month’s theme is “Time: Travel,” and will have songwriter Caroline Cotter, journalist Egan Millard, and teacher Marita O’Neil, grapple with putting elegant words to this eternal theme.

| FREE | 5:30 pm | Blue, 650 Congress St., Portland |


GOT MILK | Over the past 50 years, New England has lost over 10,000 dairy farms, leaving just 2,000 scattered across the northeast. What happened to the farmers? What’s the general state of the dairy industry nowadays anyway? Is there a declining demand for milk? Or are there some insidious class divisions happening at the policy level? Because farmers can work for generations building a farm, and lose it all within an hour. If you care about this sort of thing, then your questions might be answered during this screening of Forgotten Farms, which will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers, Amanda Beal of Maine Farmland Trust and Dave Colson of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

| $5 | 6:30 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland |




WORDPLAY | The Telling Room, a Portland non-profit dedicated to nurturing the powerful, yet sometimes fragile creative force that is youth storytelling, hosts their annual showcase. Each year, student writing is honored with the official release of the yearly anthology Sparks. Dubbed The Big Night 2017, this event is sure to reveal Portland’s budding, bright, literary talents.  

| FREE | 5:30 pm | University of Southern Maine, Hannaford Hall, 88 Bedford St., Portland |


PRACTICE FIRST | Portland’s most well-known (and often quite funny) drag-queen personality Cherry Lemonade (real name Conor Leigh Tubbs) is hosting a new weekly series called “Mouth Off.” Competitors will take to the stage for a lip-sync battle while trying not to embarrass themselves in the meantime. The most convincing lip syncers won’t just take home bragging rights, but also cold hard cash! For the rest of us watching, this just sounds like a night of absurd, and likely hilarious, entertainment.

| $5 | 9 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland


SUNNY MELODIES | Brooklyn’s psych-pop four-piece Maybird team up with the grunge-soaked power pop band Sun Parade for a serendipitous night of clean, bubbly tunes. Ride the warm waves of sonic bliss these eight musicians will likely pump out with ease. Maybird will showcase their latest single, “Keep in Line,” which the DIYMag called a “contemporary, but timeless little number.” Recommended.

| $12 | 9 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland |




DANCE FOR LIFE | Summer means Congress Square park is going to be 100 percent more lively. The warm air brings with it the return of the Portland Swing Project. The group’s core includes Caroline Cotter on ukulele, guitar and vocals, Tyler Lienhardt on fiddle and vocals, and Jed Bresette on standup bass and vocals. This powerhouse musical group exhibits a clear passion for swing music (from the 20s until today) and have earned a reputation for getting the timidest amongst us dancing and wiggling to their infectious grooves.

| FREE | 6 pm | Congress Square Park, 599 Congress St., Portland |




EARTHLY DELIGHTS | With school ending sessions and the temperature finally reaching 80 degrees, I’m going to officially dub next week as the start of summer. And the change of season brings a whole slew of social opportunities and cultural experiences. Our next edition of 8 Days will undoubtedly preview Portland’s first “Death Cafe” (a roundtable of folks sharing experiences with mortality), a sexual health story slam, an urban foraging workshop, pop group the xx at Thompson’s Point, weird rockers Jesus Cactus at the SPACE Gallery, and the return of Irish punk group Flogging Molly at the State Theatre. And there’s so much more; so pick up these pages next week for the full scoop.

"Do You See Me Now?" Photographers reveal Portland's opiate crisis with "Grit, Grime, and Grace"

Shaun Buck, pictured alongside this article, was supposed to be the “posterboy” for a new photography exhibition titled “Grit, Grime, and Grace,” aimed at humanizing people who use opiates and their struggle to get clean. 


But four days before the exhibition’s opening, Buck was found dead inside a Porta Potty in Deering Oaks park. He had died of an opiate overdose.


Buck’s portrait, a photograph by Joanne Arnold, still hangs proudly at the exhibit, on view through May 29 at the Union of Maine Visual Artists Gallery on the first floor of the CTN building on Congress St., but with a makeshift memorial underneath it, asking others to share memories or condolences. A caption alongside his photo reads, “Do You See Me Now?”


Arnold, the photographer who captured Buck’s enigmatic expression back in November, said that his recent death ironically served to emphasize one of the exhibition’s core messages: the recovering addict community in Portland grapple with death and dying every day, but their suffering often goes unnoticed by the public.  


“I wanted to make a stand and say, see, this is what happens,” said Arnold, whose work, along with Nick Gervin and Colin Malakie, makes up the UMVA street photography exhibition. “He was a great guy that was sailing smooth, but had a fall he couldn’t recover from. It's a typical experience of the community of loss.”


On average, at least one person dies of an overdose a day here in Maine. According to the Portland Press Herald, which published a detailed 10-part special report about opioid addiction titled “Lost” last March, 376 Mainers died of overdoses last year, from different backgrounds and points of life: young and old, wealthy and poor, rural farmers, coastal fishermen, and affluent suburbanites.


Arnold and photographer David Wade (who curated "Grit, Grime, and Grace") say that despite the sweeping scope of addiction and its coverage in state newspapers, the misery of those caught in it goes largely unseen. Arnold and Wade hope to steer viewers away from the “postcard pretty” image of Portland to the grim reality of the streets, where many locals struggle to get warm, fed, and clean from potentially fatal drug use.


“Portland’s not your happy, inviting, bucolic, summer-y, and touristy little city by the sea,” said Wade. “Nobody wants to see the reality of the opiate epidemic; it gets swept under the rug.”

Wade aims to show another side of Portland, one with “Grit, Grime, and Grace,” as the exhibition’s title aptly suggests.

“I'm not ignoring it anymore,” said Wade. “We have a real opiate epidemic here in Maine; it's bigger than I thought.”


The pervasiveness of this reality confronts viewers as soon as they enter the exhibition space with a banner that reads “We See You: Have you lost anyone in your life to Maine’s opiate crisis?” Underneath, dozens of post-it notes smatter the space featuring the names of those that lost their life to drugs. It just took one night to fill the banner.


“You can't just ignore this crisis and hope it goes away,” said Wade. “Maine’s billed as The Way Life Should Be, but hey, this is not how life should be.”


The exhibit features the work of Nicholas Gervin, Colin Malakie, and Joanne Arnold, who all have vastly different approaches to photography, but wind up embracing the same theme: objective, street level reality. Gervin’s a nightcrawler who roams the streets of Portland in the wee hours and with a “gotcha” style of flash photography which captures intense scenes of police arrests, house fires, drug abuses, and drunken 2:00 am brawls. One might say he covers the “grime.” 

tji nicholasgervin

Taken on the streets of Portland by Nicholas Gervin.

Part of Gervin's artist statement reads: "Yes, life is good here in Portland, but not necessarily for everyone and certainly not all the time. Like many cities across America we have our fair share of issues that often go unresolved over the decades. Homelessness, drug addiction, poverty, unemployment, state budget cuts, an understaffed police force, overworked fire department and EMT’s, gentrification and global warming among many others. How will the greater community of Portland address these issues? The time for action is now."

Malakie’s black-and -white photographs reveal moments that don’t seem like they took place in Portland. His work embodies the “grit” of the city. 

And Arnold, with her intimate and arresting portraits of MaineWorks employees — an organization that connects recovering addicts, ex-felons, and Veterans with employment opportunities  — deftly embodies the “grace” portion of the exhibit.

As an Interfaith Chaplain and photographer who peers into personal, complex, and often times stigmatized experiences, Arnold says communication with her subjects is imperative. She understands the importance of conveying the difficult journey of recovery without tokenizing with experiences of addicts with her photographs.

“I get permission and build a relationship first,” said Arnold, who says she's often up at 5 am to meet with the MaineWorks group. “I don't want to take advantage of them.”

Arnold says she hopes viewers see her photographs and don’t jump to labeling her subjects as “junkies or idiots,” but instead as complex and tenacious humans who are burdened with a long and difficult journey.

“Some of these people have lost all their friends,” said Arnold. “The exhibition shows sadness and misery, but I hope it has a healthy effect.” 



It’s been 10 months, since Kaylee Michelle, a young mother born and raised in Portland, last used heroin.


As a person in recovery, Michelle said that she’s used to people judging her, but often times, when they do, they don’t know her full story. Sometimes an exchange between a recovering addict and a sober person can result in a complete disregard for the complex forces that chained them to chemical dependency in the first place.


Michelle encourages those that are “quick to judge” to go see the “Grit, Grime, and Grace” and is glad that such an exhibition exists. She said it lets other addicts “know that they are not alone.”


Last Sunday, on Mother’s Day, Michelle took to Facebook to write a status — which, with her permission, I’ve reprinted below — that neatly sums up the point of this photo project and is symbolic of a recovering addict’s life experience. One who might cry out, “do you really see me?”


“You see heroin, I see low self-esteem. You see cocaine, I see fear. You see alcohol, I see social anxiety. You see track marks, I see depression. You see a Junkie, I see someone's son. You see a prostitute, I see someone's daughter caught in addiction. You see self-centeredness, I see the disease. You see a pill head, I see overprescribing of opiates. You see someone unwilling to change, I see someone hasn't connected with them yet. You see denial, I see someone hurting. You see someone nodding out, I see God showing us they need help. You see the end, I see the beginning. You see a dope fiend, I see a future success story. You see them, I see me.” - Kaylee Michelle

Five surprising facts about video games and their impact on the real world

The perception of a gamer as a socially awkward outcast who barely experiences any light or human interaction apart from their television and their mother has long since eroded. With 2 billion gamers worldwide, and the global gaming market surging past 100 billion dollars last year, calling yourself a “gamer” in 2017 is almost like calling yourself a cell phone user. Indeed video games and their creators have long fantasized of overtaking Hollywood as the medium of the 21st century.

Because we're so used to them being a part of our lives, it's easy to dismiss the immense cultural value video games hold. Numerous studies have shown that they can provide the cognitive stimulation needed to aid in learning and memory. They can connect you with friends — a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center titled "Teens, Technology, and Friendship" found that 53% of gamers said their gaming habits formed friendships. The huge demand for blockbuster games encourages the tech industry to innovate constantly, developing exciting new gadgets with applications beyond just gaming, like virtual reality for example.

And most importantly, and perhaps most obviously, video games are just plain fun. They're a unique synthesis of multiple engaging art forms like animation, voice-acting, writing, illustration, music, storytelling, etc. These art forms combined with interactivity make video games so easy to escape into. That's why it's important to pay attention to the evolutions of video games and its industry, because like every monstrous, and highly immersive media market, they display innate yet powerful expressions of what we value as a culture.

Video games are ubiquitous to life in the digital age, but I bet there's plenty you don't know about them.For example, did you know that 1990 game Golden Axe on the SEGA was voiced entirely by prisoners on death row? There are a plethora of interesting factoids about gaming that illuminates higher truths about our consumption society. But here we present just five curious things you might not have known about video games and their impact on the real world. 



1. The most important games in the world are...

Did you know there's a World Video Game Hall of Fame? It's located at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester N.Y., and among other things, it honors the individual games that have had the biggest impact on the industry and society.

The winners are — and they really shouldn't surprise you — Donkey Kong, Halo: Combat Evolved, Pokemon Red and Green, and Street Fighter II.

Other contenders included: Final Fantasy VII, Microsoft Windows Solitaire, Mortal Kombat, Myst, Portal, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, and Wii Sports.

Without these games, who knows what the state of the gaming world would be like today (probably a lot duller).



2. Which video game went to space?

None other than the intergalactic strategic warfare game Starcraft. How fitting. In 1999, missions specialist Daniel T. Barry took a physical copy of the PC game Starcraft into space with him as he orbited the Earth 153 times, showing not just his love for the game, but its overall impact on our cosmic imagination.



3. Video games have profound effects on your brain

No no no, video games don't actually make you more violent. This has been debunked time and time again, most recently by a study from the Southwest University in China.

Instead, video games can actually positively impact your neurochemistry — just so long as you don't play for 100 hours straight and die from exhaustion like some overzealous gamers have. Everything in moderation folks, even good things.

Anyway, I'll link the sources to all these ridiculously wonderful claims below, but so far I've found that video games can: teach and enforce teamwork, improve your vision, enhance hand-eye coordination, teach you multitasking, chase away depression, act as a pain-reliever, and — especially with virtual reality games — can promote physical exercise.

CheckPoint is a fairly new organization that's devoted its resources to researching and understanding the link between mental health and video game habits; so far, according to their website, they've found positive relationships.

According to joint research done by the University of California and Akili Interactive Labs, games like EVO can help improve attention skills, and sensory processing, in children with ADHD.



4. The video game industry has a serious diversity problem

Like the multi-billion dollar tech industry in Silicon Valley, or the star-studded, culture defining clique of Hollywood, the video game industry is rife with discrimination and representation issues.

Despite huge AAA games coming like Watch Dogs 2, Uncharted 4, Mass Effect Andromeda, and Mirror's Edge 2 (to name a few) coming out last year with women or minorities as protagonists, representation is still a problem, both in and outside the digital world.

According to a report in the Guardian, just 14 percent of people working in the UK's gaming industry are women. For Black and Asian folks, the industry representation is just 4%.

Here in America, the stats are roughly the same; a survey from the International Game Developers Association found that from the 1,186 game developers surveyed, 75 percent were white males, and just 2 percent were made up of black and latino people. Only .3 percent of those surveyed identified as transgender.

What can be done to break up this old boys club?

The gaming and entertainment magazine Mic suggested a couple months ago that gaming companies release diversity reports on their staff, like most tech companies (Facebook, Uber, Pinterest) regularly do. These reports, Mic argues, could increase transparency and accountability, and drive the necessary change from inside to employ marginalized folks, and add nuanced and accurate depictions of minorities inside their video game universes.



5. Virtual Reality horror games might get even more terrifying

Strapping yourself into a fully immersive, 360 view insane asylum, or an eerie underwater research facility like in the first person VR game Soma, is already a pretty scary experience. But game developers at Soma are making the experience even more lifelike and terrifying by adding this innovative technical feature: eye tracking.

The grotesque creatures and strange humanoid robots in Soma will now know when you, the player, are looking at them and will attack accordingly. This game will turn your own eyesight against you, which is just freakishly cool.










  • Published in News

8 Days A Week: Secret Sites, Endorphin Rushes, and Music Legends



WATER IS LIFE | We take water for granted every damn day. We go most of our day without even thinking about water, but if we were deprived of it for just eight hours, getting our lips wet would leap to top priority. Although it’s one of our most important resources, like many aspects of a privileged existence, we just expect it to be there. But, as Jessica Yu will elucidate with her compelling documentary Last Call At The Oasis, water is still a luxury in many parts of the world. Over 70 percent of Earth’s surface is covered in water, but only 2.5 percent of it is fresh, and only one percent of that isn’t frozen or buried beneath the ground. And how much of that tiny fraction is even accessible to a person stuck in cycle of poverty? Yu’s documentary explores an uncomfortably prescient, and incredibly important question: what can we do to save our freshwater supplies before global calamity ensues? Necessary viewing for everyone that benefits from H2O.

| FREE | 6 pm | University of Southern Maine, Talbot Auditorium, 96 Falmouth St., Portland |


NOT SLOWING DOWN | If I ever get to be an old man, my only wish is to have half as much energy as 90-year-old Tony Bennett. The legendary vocalist of American pop standards and big band jazz shows has been painting, acting, writing, and letting loose those unmistakable pipes for over half a century now, and he’s still going strong! Take advantage of this iconic American singer’s rare appearance in Portland; it may be the last chance you ever get to see this integral part of music history alive and in-the-flesh.  

| $140 | 7:30 pm | Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland |


TAKE A CHANCE | Are you familiar with the Meat Puppets? They exhibit the telltale signs of a band that takes the art of performance very seriously. What’s in a name? For starters, experience; this trio of rockers have been writing, rehearsing, arranging, and evolving since the 80s. The brothers in this band played with Kurt Cobain on Nirvana's The Muddy Banks of the Wishkah live album. Also, Mike Watt is a straight-up legendary bassist with the band the Minutemen, who are one of the most influential bands in early 80s punk. They discard genre conventions, and like all solid acts, have an aversion to the term in general. It’s likely that Meat Puppet listeners have been on the fan train for a while, but if you’re new and curious to their blend of rock like me, you may want to swing into the station. They’re joined by Mike Watt and the Jom & Terry Show, and Grant Hart, formerly of Husker Du.

| $25 | 8 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland |


CATHARTIC NOISE | Back from a hiatus and embracing a messy world of contradictions is Jimmy Eat World, a band set to bring sonic wisdom back from their red desert home of Arizona. After spending time reaffirming their musical mission of exploring life’s struggles in all their beautiful complexities, this seminal emo-rock is in nonstop tour mode. They’re joined by Beach Slang, a pop-punk band led by longtime scenester James Alex, that I’d describe — after listening to their latest mixtape — as fun yet serious, uplifting but moody. If you haven’t been to sparkly new club space at Aura, make this your first concert there.

| $30 | 9 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland |




THINK DEEP | Like...what even is art anymore? I’m pretty sure I saw an old pink mattress hanging in the Portland Museum of Art, so I’m having trouble determining if there’s even a standard to the craft anymore. But who am I to begin to judge what is and isn’t art? I’m sure the young people who’ve spent a great deal of time (and money) studying and exploring the amorphous world of art at MECA can better illuminate the state of it today. Nine graduating artists’ work will be on display at the MFA Thesis Exhibition offering viewers unique approaches to the global cultural landscape, and perspectives on the ever-changing philosophy of aesthetics. The exhibition’s open now until June 9.

| FREE | 11 am to 5 pm | Maine College of Art, 522 Congress St., Portland |


8days ericbettencourt PhotoByRobbieKanner

Eric Bettencourt. Photo by Robyn Kanner

CONTROLLED INTENSITY | An oddly reliable sign that summer’s quickly approaching is when Portland native Eric Bettencourt swings back home from for a string of shows. Now based in Austin, Texas, this award-winning songwriter delivers a heartfelt performance with nothing but his 12-string guitar and his naturally raw vocal style. (Preview "Baby in the Bathtub" on YouTube for proof). Ben Balmer, an adept songwriter, and genre hopper, joins Bettencourt for this reunion night of compassionate tunes.

| $15 | 7 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland |


SOCIALISTS UNITE | Local personality Harlan Baker wears many hats. He’s an activist, a teacher, and a former legislator. More recently he’s been organizing the “Say No To Racism” rallies in Monument Square during the art walk. But this week, he’s donning his actor hat for repeat of his original one-man performance he calls Jimmy Higgins: A Life in the Labor Movement. With wit and candor, he’ll explore a life in the labor movement and recall his experiences growing up during some of the most tumultuous times in American history. If you’re easily triggered by Marx references, this show isn’t for you.

| FREE | 7 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland |


RECREATING MAGIC | Billed as "the best Beatles Tribute band on Earth" by Rolling Stone, 1964 meticulously recreates the live magic of the Beatles right down to their instruments, suits, and boots. Embrace the wonderful dichotomy of classic people’s pop tunes performed faithfully inside Portland’s swankiest, and arguably most modern, music venue.

| $20-40 | 8 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland |


LAUNCH PARTY | PRIDE week is fast approaching, and it’s time for you to rise up and dance with Portland’s LGBTQ community. Despite the repeated political moves that undermine the very humanity of LGBTQ Americans, they can’t be in full-on resistance mode 100 percent of the time. Life is short! Pride Portland offers a carefree kick-off party that calls for the community to come together under the banner of unconditional love and unapologetic realness. I’m sure the perpetually bubbly Chris O’Connor can easily get you in the party mood with his down-to-earth friendliness and killer DJ skills.

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




FALL WITH STYLE | When was the last time you had a true adrenaline rush? No, not the fluttery feeling from something fairly common like speeding through a red light. I’m talking about the uncontrollable torrent of organic chemicals that makes your heart beat fast, and your muscles go numb from a strange coalescence of anxiety and badassery. If you’re craving that euphoric jolt to your senses, and a test of your personal boundaries, might I offer a chance to rappel down Portland’s tallest building? Rippleffect, a youth development organization, is hosting an experience called Rappel for Ripple that will see nearly 100 people rappelling down One City Center. Crazy? Maybe. Totally rad? Definitely. You may not actually get a chance to go over the edge with them, but the sight itself will be something to behold.

| TBD | 9 am to 3 pm | 1 City Ctr., Portland |


HARD CIDER RUN | Runners of 5Ks must have “the good life” all figured out. I know this because their sneakers are always clean, and they seem to wear a perpetual grin. Hell, anyone that pays to run must be oozing in privilege. Or maybe they just get off from the endorphins released after running the 3.1 mile length of the Eastern Promenade. Maybe we can snag a piece of the good life too, and tap into this fuzzy feeling of accomplishment by joining the Hard Cider Run. There’s a cold, crisp glass of hard cider at the finish line (at Urban Farm Fermentory, producing this run). If you want in on this, you’ve got to sign up online first!

| $45 | 10 am | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland |


SECRET TOUR | Most of us walk the streets of Portland completely oblivious to its long and storied history. Many of the historic buildings from the twentieth and nineteenth centuries hide behind their bricks fascinating tales, leaving us with only the outside architecture to appreciate. But wouldn’t it be nice to step inside like Longfellow did, or some other old timey Portlander might have? Appreciators (and might I say preservers) of Portland’s history at the Maine Historical Society have curated a "Magical History Tour," where those secret sites will be unlocked to the public for one day only.

| $35 | 10 am to 4 pm | Maine Historical Society, 485 Congress St., Portland |


MAY MARKET | Don’t let the farmer’s market in Deering Oaks be the only spring market you frequent this season. The Fork Food Lab offers a chance to stock up on speciality foods, and sample the latest and greatest culinary creations from their members during this special event. This place has a very Portland feel and features a really nice outdoor space for parties and barbecues. Proxemics matters, people!

| FREE | 11 am to 3 pm | Fork Food Lab, 72 Parris St., Portland |



SCHOOL OF ROCK | Are the high schools in the area ready to unleash the next shining rock star onto the world? Or will our state stay quiet? Judge for yourself when the finalists of the 2017 MAMM SLAM take over Empire for a night of explosive competition. Competing artists include The Asthmatic, Mikayla Gallows, The Rubber Band, Liam Swift, and Yard Sail. Who’s going to take home the $1000, and get one step closer to making their music dreams a reality? Join this Maine Academy of Modern Music tonight.

| $12 | 1 pm to 6 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland |


8days ArcIris PhotoByJoChattman

Arc Iris. Photo by Jo Chattman

PINNACLE OF POP | Fans of Joni Mitchell’s seminal album Blue won’t want to miss this creative reimagining of the work by the art-pop power trio Arc Iris. The core of each iconic song is preserved by the Rhode Island band nestled between layers of boldly innovative synths, heavy drum beats, and generous sampling.

| $12 | 7 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland |


GET LIT | Some of the prices on this week’s edition of 8 Days are a little steep, eh? Well, let me remind you that dance nights at Flask are usually free. Tonight, the Party Bear Squad, Ryssa, Tmber, Be See, and Nic Optimistic are DJing and unleashing some fire similar to the fire found on their Soundcloud pages. Heavy bass, a packed dance floor, and a dazzling new light display are your party favors during this sweaty celebration of life.

| FREE | 9 pm | Flask Lounge, 117 Spring St., Portland |




CHEST FEST | Etain Boutique and the community organizations Speak About It, and Portland Outright have joined forces to dedicate an evening to tales of the torso. A line-up of speakers will share stories about an important and treasured part of humanity: boobs. Could this be the strange and unexpected event you needed in your life? Don't forget to bring in any gently used bras for their collection drive!

| $5-10 | 5 pm | Etain Boutique, 646 Congress St., Portland |


8days LupeFIasco

Lupe Fiasco.

SHOW GOES ON | Aura, Portland’s newest music club, hosts its first truly big star (sorry Dwight Yoakam, not a fan) this week, testing the waters to see how the atmosphere jives with a mega-celebrity. The Grammy winning rapper Lupe Fiasco’s in town, and will bring his interesting flow, smart rhymes, and chart-topping singles to this spacious, yet still surprisingly intimate venue. (Attendees will be able to see the rapper from all angles, some might smell him). Fiasco’s been described by listeners as a “hip hop saviour,” for his truly unique style that hits hard with deep lyrical themes that don’t rest on the typical rap crutches of vulgarity, sex, drugs, and violence.

| $50 | 8 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland |


EAR RETREAT | Tune out the bullshit in your life and let the Apohadian Theater’s curated lineup end your Sunday on a harmonious and folksy note. Grab a dark Oxbow beer and settle in for a easy night of winding down a river of eerie rhythms, vast soundscapes, and cool alt-country vibes thanks to the talents of Dimples (Colby Nathan), Maine songstress Caethua & the Cool Blue Shadows, and Fragile Harm (a new collaboration between Cal Clark and Brendan Evans of Video Nasties).

| $5-10 | 8 pm | Oxbow Blending and Bottling, 49 Washington Ave., Portland |




SEIZE THE MEANS | Wondering if the hard-to-define “Resistance” is running out of steam? Curious to see how Portland’s progressives are planning for the next wave of political battles? Need a mental break from capitalism? All this and more starts at the local level. Exchange ideas or simply kick back and listen during the Maine Democratic Socialists monthly meetup.  

| FREE | 7 pm | Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St., Portland |


DOOM BANGERS | Throw yourself into a cyclone of unrelenting noise rock at Portland’s oldest pub with these three summoners of chaos and catharsis: Earthworm Von Doom, Forget the Times, and Cop Funeral. Just by their band names, you can tell these cursed rockers aren’t screwing around, and are prepared to toss out mediocrity out the the window.

| $5 | 8 pm | Mathew's Pub, 133 Free St., Portland |




HIPSTER CHIC | Hear me out. Building your own succulent terrarium is a really interesting, fun, and unique way to express yourself. Think about it, you get to play designer with living things! They also make thoughtful gifts. The plants, stones, soil, and shells at your disposal will serve as your building blocks, and paired with a couple beers, will make you feel like the benevolent creator of mini mason jar worlds. Hosted by ArtSea Maine, an art therapy organization.

| $30 | pm | Oxbow Blending & Bottling, 49 Washington Ave., Portland | |


8Days JessicaDeutschOzerebyKaitlyn Raitz

Jessica Deutsch. Photo by Kaitlyn Raitz

FIDDLE HEADS | Gracefully balancing between styles you’d hear in a stuffy ballroom to ones you’d hear in a rural dive-bar is the chamber-folk outfit Ozere, led by Jessica Deutsch, a Canadian folk starlet. Her imaginative string music paves the way for an emotionally stirring, seamless, and wholesome live experience.

| $15 | 7 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland |


8days theRecordCompany

The Record Company.

VINTAGE ROCK | The Los Angeles based trio The Record Company are set to transform Portland's Port City Music Hall into a smoky, backwoods Mississippi jukebox joint with their time-tested take on classic rock-n-roll. They’ll be singing the blues and stomping around alongside Smooth Hound Smith, a duo well versed in the same hazy, memorable, yet admittedly cliche American sounds.

| $20 | 8 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland |




SONGWRITING LEGEND | This week, Portland’s graced with the presence of yet another old but highly treasured folk-rocker: Gordon Lightfoot. Yes of course this Canadian hall of famer is still around — you didn’t fall for his death hoax back in the early days of Twitter, did you? He’s going to be doing what most of the still-touring greats from the '60s and '70s do today: attempt to conjure the energy, enthusiasm, and artistic spark of concerts lost to time. Reviewers of his live show swear that this 78-year-old star’s still got it.

| $100 | 8:00 pm | Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland |




PUCKER UP | The warm air brings with it an onslaught of spring concerts that I’m excited to string words together and tell you about. From the London Souls tearing up the stage at P.H.O.M.E. and Todd Rundgren lighting up Aura, to the xx playing Thompson’s Point and the return of the All Roads Music Festival up in Brunswick, there are a lot of acts to highlight. However, you’ll have to pick up next week’s issue to get the full lowdown on these events, and more. I doubt Phoenix readers have the brain space is in this information-soaked world of ours to remember each show a full 8 Days in advance, so flip through these pages next week. But in the meantime, put down your phone, and go experience something.

What Makes a Sanctuary City?

In Trump’s first 100 days in office, we’ve witnessed ICE agents ramping up immigration enforcement by arresting at least 675 illegal immigrants across the country. Here in Maine, a new bill (LD 366) was introduced that would essentially empower local law enforcement to act as immigration officials. These aggressive policies bring with them a perception of animosity toward foreign-born Americans. Because of this, we thought it would be important to go over a concept rife with misconceptions: sanctuary cities.


How do sanctuary cities work? Are they the hotbeds of lawlessness that conservatives like our governor warn against, or do they encourage economic growth and promote safety for a community's most marginalized populations like most liberals believe? And should the cities in Maine that see the biggest influx in immigrants and asylum seekers — primarily Lewiston, Portland, and South Portland — consider adopting sanctuary status?


The debate is contentious, so let’s go over the basics.


Sanctuary cities are cities (and counties) that limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcers. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, there are over 300 sanctuary cities and counties across the country, and most have different definitions of how exactly they provide “sanctuary.” But most of the policies typically try to work around the same question: how should local law enforcement respond after learning that a person they arrested for a crime is undocumented?


news tji mapofsanctuarycities fromCIS A map of cities and counties in the U.S. that are designated as "sanctuary cities." From Bryan Griffith and Jessica Vaughn at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Consider this scenario: a Portland police officer arrests a male born from a Muslim-majority country for an OUI and books him for a night in the Cumberland County Jail. During the booking process, the suspect’s fingerprints are taken and sent to the FBI and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement; according to the FBI's website, this is mandatory for every person arrested for a serious charge, whether or not they're convicted. If after the fingerprints are cross-referenced in the ICE database and they come up as belonging to an undocumented immigrant, ICE agents issue a “detainer request,” which asks the local law enforcement to hold him in jail for another 48 hours, giving time for ICE agents to arrive and start the deportation process. But it’s just that, a request. A local police officer can honor the request and essentially act as a deportation agent, or they can undermine federal authority and let the person go after processing.


According to multiple courts, it’s unconstitutional for police to extend a person’s detainment past the point where they should be released. Critics of this practice like Oamshri Amarasingham, the advocacy director of the ACLU of Maine say the decision can be a lose-lose situation for local law enforcement because it usually comes down to a choice between receiving federal and state funding or degrading public safety. Amarasingham said that forcing local law enforcement to support Trump's "deportation army" will likely result in lawsuits filed both from municipalities, and local law enforcement who will inevitably have to racially profile to adhere to federal immigration orders.


"That is not what state and local governments are supposed to do, they need to prioritize the needs of their communities," said Amarasingham. "How is local law enforcement going to decide who to ask for their immigration status? I don’t imagine they're going to ask every person they pull over on the highway speeding for their immigration status. They’re going to ask people who look like or sound like they might not be here legally."

According to Amarasingham, local police departments honoring ICE requests creates a heightened sense of mistrust and fear of law enforcement from the immigrant community who need to depend on them for security just like any other community member, while ignoring the ICE request threatens the financial security of the department by angering politicians in power who view undocumented citizens as defacto criminals who should be deported.


Although Portlanders like to think of Maine as a welcoming to refugees and immigrants, there aren’t any official sanctuary cities here. In fact, progressives in Portland and South Portland have tried to distance themselves from the politically charged term, fearing a POTUS and a Governor who would love to pull funding from cities that aren’t following aggressive federal immigration enforcement. Currently, according to a report from NBC, Seattle Washington, and Chelsea and Lawrence in Washington face dramatic cuts in Department of Justice Funding because of their sanctuary status. This threat comes by way of Attorney General Jeff Sessions who warned last month of a crackdown on sanctuary jurisdictions that would potentially see $4.1 billion cut from future federal grants.

The City Council of South Portland, where 7 percent of the population is foreign-born, recently considered becoming a sanctuary city, but switched to a separate protective policy that avoids sanctuary city designation, but calls for non-biased policing and support for the Muslim population.


Councilors Maxine Beecher and Linda Cohen were opposed to making South Portland a sanctuary city because they didn't want to interfere with federal laws.


“I oppose sanctuary city status for several reasons,” said Cohen. “I believe it violates the oath we take as councilors, and I do not want to tie our police department's hands when it comes to bringing down those who commit illegal activities such as human trafficking or fake marriages, to mention a couple.”


Councilor Eben Rose dropped the original bid.



Regardless of whether they officially claim the designation of “sanctuary cities,” Portland and South Portland are already considered so in LePage’s mind because of policies in the books from 2003 prohibts police officers and municipal employees from asking about a suspect’s immigration status unless required to by law. The city ordinance is called "Prohibition on Immigration Status Checks," and says that "unless otherwise required by law or by court order, no city police officer or employee shall inquire into the immigration status of any person, or engage in activities for the purpose of ascertaining the immigration status of any person.”


The truth is, there isn’t a legal definition for a sanctuary city, and although the 2003 ordinance grants some protections for locals who might fear deportation, in general, Portland’s law enforcement does cooperate with federal immigration officials. Last year, the Cumberland County Jail held 40 inmates for federal immigration officials. And last month, two crackdowns by ICE agents happened in Maine (one inside a Portland courthouse) with two undocumented immigrants now potentially facing deportation.


According to Patricia Washburn, a former Democratic City Committee member, and spokesperson for the local activist group Progressive Portland, immigrants in Maine and across the country could be scared to interact with local police officers, seek justice, or report crimes because police departments are financially incentivized to cooperate with President Trump’s deportation plans.


“And that weakens the justice system for all of us,” said Washburn.


Washburn views immigrants both documented and undocumented as important parts of the economic and social fabric of a state that’s demographically very old and white.


“We need new blood,” said Washburn. “It’s unconstitutional for local police officers to aid with federal immigration. They have enough to do without having to become agents of the federal government.”


Along with other members of Progressive Portland, Washburn’s been petitioning against what they perceive as a big problem: state governments that step in and cut funding streams to local jurisdictions that defy federal immigration laws. This happened earlier this year when the Governor of Texas Greg Abbott called sanctuary cities “dangerous” and signed a law prohibiting them from receiving state funds.


It’s happening here too. Larry Lockman (R-Amherst) has introduced a bill, LD 366, which calls for the exact same thing. In an interview with the Phoenix, Lockman said that he’s baffled why this legislation is even controversial and said that he’s not anti-immigrant, he just thinks that the undocumented ones should be deported. Because of this hardline stance on immigration, he doesn’t like the term sanctuary cities because of its positive connotation.


“The term is actually pretty slippery,” said Lockman. “I prefer the term 'harboring havens for illegal immigrants'.”


Lockman's viewpoint falls in line with conservatives that see undocumented immigrants as either criminals because of their immigration status, or criminals in the making because of their unwillingness to integrate into Western culture.


“My bill has nothing to do with legal immigrants,” said Lockman, citing that America has one of the most generous immigration policies in the world. “The criticism around it is just a false flag to label it as anti-immigrant, which is ridiculous.”


Lockman often uses the deaths of Freddy Akoa and Treyjon Arsenault (two Mainers who were murdered two years ago by undocumented immigrants) as an emotionally charged political scare tactic that, in his mind, justifies his anti-immigration bill, and the admonishment of Portland’s 2003 ordinance barring cops from asking about someone’s immigration status.


“In both cases, the murderers had lengthy criminal records," said Lockman. "If the Portland Police had not been handcuffed by the politicians in Portland, they would have been able to give ICE a heads up and picked them up. Those two guys would have been alive today if it wasn’t for that ordinance.”


Although these individual cases of violence are true, Lockman’s wrong in his generalizations of the undocumented immigrant community. For starters, according to the Pew Research Center, Maine has one of the lowest populations of unauthorized immigrants in the country, with estimates lower than 5,000. Secondly, not being able to provide the appropriate papers is not a crime, it’s a civil violation.

And lastly, according to research of FBI crime data at the University of California, sanctuary cities actually experience less crime (and stronger economies) than their counterparts, with 35.5 fewer crimes per 10,000 people. According to ICE data, from the 645 undocumented immigrants that were arrested by immigration authorities this year, over half either had no criminal record or minor traffic violations.

"The problem with Lockman's bill is that it assumes that undocumented immigrants are generally responsible for criminal problems in this country," said Amarasingham. "Data and studies show that non-citizens including undocumented people commit crimes at much lower rates than citizens, but are disproportionately targeted by laws like this."

Lockman mentioned that the FBI has active ISIS investigation in all 50 states and that terrorism and public safety are the main concerns he’s addressing with his new bill. But according to the research done around sanctuary cities and the fact that Maine has a consistently low average of violent crimes (about 1 case per 1,000 people, mostly involving white people in domestic situations), Lockman’s paranoia is unfounded.


Progressive Portland thinks he’s more than paranoid, they think he’s downright racist and xenophobic.


Washburn said that Lockman’s use of the murders of Akoa and Arsenault as a politically charged point is irresponsible.


“If murder is the standard that we evaluate whether or not a group of people should stay in this state, then we should deport all the white men,” said Washburn.


Amarasingham called the bill "shortsighted and useless."  

"This proposal is based in fear and hatred, and the will to demonize non-citizens," said Amarasingham. "It sends a strong message that non-citizens are not welcome here in Maine."

Make America Smart Again: How Science Literate Are You?


“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” - Aldous Huxley


Humanity today faces several ethical dilemmas that require, at the very least, a rudimentary reverence and understanding of science. Questions like when does a cluster of cells become a person, or how can we make cities more resilient to rising sea levels can only be tackled by someone who believes that early abortion isn’t murder and climate change is real and serious.  


One day, future generations may have to answer even more anxiety-inducing questions like: Should artificial intelligence be granted rights? Is it morally right to genetically modify our offspring?


But it’s hard for a community to confront big questions like these when some of its members still believe that fluoride is poisoning our tap water, planes leave chem-trails, and that the Devil scattered dinosaur bones everywhere to confuse people. It’s no surprise then that a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center found that there are widening gaps between what scientists report as fact and what the general public believes to be true.


If scientific literacy is the ability to draw from existing knowledge to solve problems rationally instead of just the raw memorization of facts, then it’s at an all-time low here in America.


For example, Dave Champlain told me that he frequently encounters people who don’t believe that we share a common ancestor with apes.


As a biology professor at the University of Southern Maine, who often reads surveys about modern Americans' growing skepticism about established science, Champlain is frustrated by those who disregard evolution. To him, being skeptical about science is an oxymoron.


“Skepticism on evolution is the ultimate source of this attitude that science is optional,” said Champlain. “It’s the starting point of widespread science denial.”

 news sciencemarch dave

According to Champlain, if a student of his shows skepticism towards evolution, they’re more apt to deny other objective realities like the importance of vaccinations, the seriousness of climate change, or the dangers of antibiotic resistance.


“With freedom of speech comes this enthusiastic attitude that we can agree to differ, but there are some facts that we simply can’t disagree on,” said Champlain. “When someone is pro-science, they’re not making a political statement.”


I spoke with Champlain on Saturday, April 22, during Portland’s March for Science, which two of his former students helped organize. Over a thousand scientists, educators, and enthusiasts marched down Congress Street, many with humorous signs, professing the importance of science in everyday life.


“We’re all benefiting from science,” said Champlain. “None of us would be alive without it.”


“It is because of scientific exploration that we have been able to eradicate Polio, land rovers on Mars, and create life-saving and life-enhancing devices like artificial hearts and mechanical limbs,” said UMaine graduate student Amber Hathaway. “Science has brought us computers, smartphones, and so many other devices that would have seemed inconceivable even 50 years ago. Imagine where we could be 10, 20, or 100 from now if we continue to invest in scientific research and support scientists.”


Last week’s march ran in solidarity with over 600 other events around the world, which aimed to be the first step in a movement to “defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments,” according to the movement’s official website.


Despite Champlain and many other marchers' statements that science isn’t a partisan issue, the march stood firmly against President Trump and his administration, which has called for cuts to vital research organizations like the National Institutes for Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA. During the march, giant paper mache puppets of Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon reimagined as grotesque swamp creatures wound down Congress Street amidst signs like “no alternative facts,” “Science Trumps Propaganda,” and “fund the EPA, not the wall.”


Many marchers I spoke to said that it’s ridiculous that science — which is fact and data driven — has become so politicized and dismissed as a “liberal conspiracy.” But they reconciled this inconvenience with the fact that Trump’s administration may be the most “anti-science” administration this country has ever seen.


“I’m marching today because it’s reprehensible how U.S. policy has downplayed the role that science should play in shaping our thought,” said Ben Rosenbloom, a Portland-based high-school physical science teacher. “Progress towards climate change has stalled because we still have to waste time debating with others that it’s happening.”


Rosenbloom recognized that science should inform policy and does have a bit of a political agenda, but that the agenda is foundational to American politics and values. For example, Obama’s Clean Power Plan may have reeked of leftist ideals that call for more governmental regulations, but its intended goal, clean air, is something that every American should get behind.

 news sciencemarch ben

The problem, however, according to Rosenbloom, is that we live in a country where it’s common to distrust our scientific experts who make claims that run contrary to our political or religious beliefs. This sense of skepticism in America, fueled not by facts but emotions and ideology, was one of the main reasons Rosenbloom decided to become an educator.


“The degree that Americans trust or don’t trust science often doesn’t come from a place of true science literacy,” said Rosenbloom. “It’s okay for people to blindly trust the experts, but I wish people could interpret data themselves. If everyone here was able to do that, then we’d be able to push policies informed by science. Data combined with values.”


My short conversation with Rosenbloom, who was dressed in a white lab coat while he marched down Congress Street, got me thinking about the overall state of science literacy in America. It’s one thing when fossil fuel lobbyists and politicians deny the science behind climate change to protect their financial interests, but what about the average citizen? What leads people, like some of Champlain’s students, to dismiss evolution, antibiotic resistance, and climate change? How do they perceive science as a discipline?

 news sciencemarch

“In our society, we think of scientists as inhumane, but they’re just a bunch of people,” said Champlain.


Others at the march agreed and said science and its educators come with some negative stigmas attached.


“People fear scientists, but their work is so universal,” said Nathan Katsiaficas, a Portland-based geologist. “Science literacy is at an all-time low.”


James Cormier, a science buff, and astrophotographer who grew up after the space age of the '60s experienced a time when people cared deeply about science and understood how it benefited humanity. Back then, he says, kids were fascinated by it.


“But now, science has taken a backseat,” said Cormier, who also attended last week's Science March. “It’s a cultural problem. The youth need to catch on about the benefits of the scientific method and how we’ve come to understand reality.”


Cormier pointed to science celebrities like Bill Nye and the astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson (both with fantastic shows on Netflix) as examples of great science communicators — people who don’t just understand science but are able to convey it in an engaging way to the broader public. According to Cormier, we need more people like them to promote a more comprehensive (and entertaining) culture of science literacy.

"Everyone should just take science more seriously," he said.



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