Francis Flisiuk

Francis Flisiuk

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This Machine Tests How Strong Your Bud Is — Here's how it works

If (for whatever reason) you had to convince someone about the legitimacy of the burgeoning cannabis industry, show them some of its products.

Twenty-nine states have implemented some sort of legal marijuana measure in the past 20 years and entrepreneurs and growers there have had time to test out some cool gadgets related to the business.  

To me, the use of these  — often scientific — tools speaks to the seriousness of the cannabis industry; it’s clear from the level of technology utilized in these cannabis operations just how mature the business has become. For example, last week I learned of a device made by Sage Analytics out of California that lets people test the potency of cannabis right from their own home. Want to know exactly how dank your strain is? Now you can, right down to the molecular level. 

Typically if you want to find out how much THC (the compound that gets you stoned) or CBD (the non-psychoactive compound with medicinal benefits) is in your weed, you’d have to send a gram of it to a lab, pay the fee, and wait for results. There’s a facility down in York called Tested Labs that seems to be the closest place Portland area people could send to, and they charge $40 per sample and per profile. If you’re a big-time supplier with many strains to test out, that can add up.

Some are completing the process themselves inside their own home or business with a new machine called the Humboldt Profiler II. It’s a rugged-looking box that you plug into the wall and wait beside for 20 minutes while the light warms up. After that, you grind up some bud, place it in the special container on top, seal the lid, and hit a button that says calculate. The machine will then do just that and provide full details on the levels of THC and cannabinoid levels in your sample. From there you can print labels to stick onto your bottled cannabis product.

These home potency calculators are allegedly selling well all over the world, including here in Maine, but are doing best in places like California and Colorado, states that have had a head start on both recreational and medicinal marijuana markets.

I spoke with Lauren Wilson, who lives in California and works at Sage Analytics to learn more about the science behind this fairly new portable technology.

According to Wilson, the Profiler II uses near-infrared spectroscopy to analyze a marijuana sample. There’s some hard science behind this, which involves measuring the overtones and combinations of bond vibrations in molecules. The cannabis sample is bathed in near-infrared light and by measuring and comparing the wavelengths of what's reflected and what's absorbed by the sample, an observer can calculate exactly what's in it. Light particles, known as photos, contain a lot of information. Thankfully, you don't need to know anything about the electromagnetic spectrum, because the machine does all the heavy lifting, spitting out data after about 10 seconds. Near-infrared technology is a fast, reliable, and non-destructive technique used already in the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries. 

The technology is typically only available for people in scientific careers priced at hundreds of thousands of dollars, however, it has been used through these smaller devices by growers, extract producers, edible manufacturers, and dispensaries for a couple years now.

“We took the same technology that was being used in pharma to test drugs and designed it to test the potency of cannabis,” said Wilson. “It’s an FDA approved technology and it’s very inexpensive.”

Wilson says the applications for the Profiler II are varied. Growers can use it as a tool when monitoring their plants — pulling plants exactly during the moment when its buds have maxed out of its THC content. They can later use potency testing as a way to help negotiate their prices when it’s time to sell a harvest. Dispensaries can use the device to provide testing for customers on the spot, possibly assuring them of any concerns they have about dosages. 

“It can give you information so that you can calibrate and grow the best possible plant,” said Wilson. “Before you had to be very skilled to be able to do this.”

But, as Wilson made sure to point out, in-house potency testing should not be perceived as a replacement to third-party testing. “Growers still need those,” she says, because only at a laboratory can the cannabis be tested for things like heavy metals, solvents, pesticides, mold, and fungus.

Plus, under Maine’s Marijuana Legalization Act, which is currently being re-worked by a special committee, recreational and medicinal operations are required to have their product tested by a third party for contaminants and THC potency.

While devices like the Profiler may still prove far too expensive or superfluous for some, its growing popularity shows just how committed many marijuana professionals are about putting out a safe, quality product. And that’s a good sign.

 Francis Flisiuk can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information on the Humboldt Profiler II visit: 

"LePage Can't Stop This" — Mainers want more health-care, not less

Last week 59 percent of Maine voters approved of Question 2, which seeks to expand Medicaid coverage to residents living below 133 percent of the federal poverty line. Actually, the measure was the highest percentage of the vote of a citizen's initative in Maine in almost two decades. 

But it might take much longer than necessary before those newly eligible folks — a group estimated to be around 80,000 Mainers — will be able to sign up.

Gov. Paul LePage threatened to veto the measure last week, as he’s done five times in the past with other Medicaid expansion efforts. He argues that expanding Medicaid would plunge Maine further into debt and prove burdensome to the taxpayer, pointing to Medicaid expansion in 2002 that resulted in $750 million in hospital debt.

“Therefore, my administration will not implement Medicaid expansion until it has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels [the Department of Health and Human Services] has calculated, and I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families, raiding the rainy day fund or reducing services to our elderly or disabled,” said LePage in a recent radio address. “We don’t mind helping people get health care, but it should not be free. ‘Free’ is very expensive to somebody.”


LePage — and fellow state Republicans like Senator Eric Brakey (R-20) — view expanded health-care coverage as a handout that able-bodied adults shouldn’t be given when they can “work and contribute to their own health insurance costs.”

“When setting priorities in our social safety net, I believe those who are physically or mentally incapable of caring for themselves must come first,” said Brakey in a statement to the Phoenix. “Funding Medicaid expansion for able-bodied adults before we adequately fund services for our seniors and disabled would make our most vulnerable Mainers wait even longer for desperately needed services.”

Lori Gramlich, the executive director of the Maine Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, mobilized many Mainers to support Medicaid expansion and played a big role in its passing. She said that Medicaid expansion wouldn't take away services from others and believes that everyone has a right to affordable health-care. According to Gramlich, most of the people who will qualify for Medicaid are working but in low wage, often entry-level or seasonal, service industry and/or part-time jobs which often don’t offer health insurance coverage.

According to Gramlich, the expansion wouldn’t send Medicaid dollars to new enrollees but instead directly to health care providers to pay for the services they deliver.

“Maine taxpayers are already paying for Medicaid expansion in other states, but not for people here in Maine,” said Gramlich. “As social workers, we advocate for a more just society. Medicaid expansion will decrease Maine’s health disparities and will have a direct impact on the life, health, and economic stability of Maine’s low-income residents.”

The notion touted by LePage that Medicaid expansion would deplete services to Maine seniors is also untrue. Although Medicaid’s known for primarily helping poor people, 80 percent of its budget benefits children and the elderly. One in three people helped by Medicaid expansion is between the ages of 50 and 64.

“LePage’s claims about seniors are completely bogus, and in keeping with his tradition of pitting groups of Mainers against each other,” said James Myall, a policy analyst at the Maine Center for Economic Policy. “The reality is that there’s no connection between funding for the two programs and no reason why we can’t fund both. In fact, the governor and his appointees at DHHS have repeatedly cut Medicaid for the non-elderly without making significant progress in care for those with disabilities or the elderly.”


news CourtesyoftheHenryJKaiserFamilyFOundation2

Graphic courtesy of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 

To be fair, Republican's say their opposition to Medicaid expansion hinges less on a moral concern about who deserves health care and more on economic concerns on how that care would be paid for. The federal government would pay 94 percent of Maine’s Medicaid costs in 2018, and 90 percent from 2020 on, a deal which according to the Office of Fiscal Program Review would still cost the state 54 million a year.

LePage has indicated that he will veto any funding proposal that raises taxes, uses the rainy day fund or cuts services for seniors and disabled Mainers. It’s unclear how else the $54 million could be drummed up beside raising taxes or cutting services elsewhere.

But supporters of Medicaid expansion don’t believe an extra $54 million would prove catastrophic to the economy and remarked that Maine has an $8 million budget surplus and over $1 billion in the rainy day fund.

“We do not have a deficit,” said Gramlich. “This is a matter of priorities, and other states are benefiting in many ways — including experiencing savings in their state budgets, especially in the area of mental health and substance use disorder treatment.”

Myall said his colleagues at the MCEP will be working directly with the Legislature on the issue of funding, but regardless, he’s confident that the price tag won’t be an issue. He said the $54 million is a small increase and represents only 1.5 percent of the state’s general fund.

For supporters like Gramlich and Myall, spending an extra $54 million — funded through whatever mechanism the Legislature thinks best — is well worth it to secure an additional $500 million in federal aid.

But Brakey’s not convinced the federal government — which he says is itself $20 trillion in debt — would pay up.

“Washington D.C. politicians are making promises with money they don't have,” said Brakey. Even if the politicians maintain this promise in the short-run, they can only avoid economic reality for so long. The bills will come due and this financial house of cards will come crashing down on all of us. When that day comes, Maine people will be left holding the bag.”

These are the reasons why LePage is willing to try and overturn the will of the voters, despite numerous promises in the past that he’d respect the democratic process even on issues he disagrees with.

The irony of a conservative leader with Tea Party roots using the power of government to dismiss a citizen’s initiative is not lost on us. Considering LePage's recent vetoes of voter-approved measures like the Marijuana Legalization Act and Ranked Choice Voting, it’s clear LePage’s politics are almost synonymous with contradiction and obstructionism.

news CourtesyoftheHenryJKaiserFamilyFOundation

Graphic courtesy of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundaton. 


But LePage’s recent threats of veto are still puzzling, presumably because the Governor knows what he can and can’t get away with. Does LePage know there’s nothing he can do to stop this?

Because according to it, a veto of a citizen’s initiative is beyond the power of his office.

According to Section 19 of the Maine Constitution titled Effective Date of Measures Approved by the People; Veto Power Limited, “the veto power of the Governor shall not extend to any measure approved by vote of the people, and any measure initiated by the people and passed by the Legislature without change, if vetoed by the Governor and if the veto is sustained by the Legislature shall be referred to the people to be voted on at the next general election.”

A voter-approved initiative that requires state spending won't become operable until 45 days after the next legislative meeting which won’t be until Jan. 3, 2018.

After that, LePage — who will be out of office next year — is required to submit the necessary paperwork to the federal government to implement the expansion within 90 days.

So legally, LePage can’t stop the Medicaid expansion from happening, but he can try to delay it.

“The governor is basically irrelevant in this process,” said Myall. “It’s his job to implement the laws of the state, and this law is structured with minimal opportunity for meddling by the executive branch. As far as the legislative process goes, a supplemental budget requires a two-thirds (veto proof) vote anyway so legislators shouldn’t be unduly swayed by a lame duck governor.”

Maine’s Speak of the House Sarah Gideon assured voters the Legislature would implement the measure and intervene if LePage tried to stop it.

In a recent press release, Gideon wrote that “Any attempts to illegally delay or subvert this law will not be tolerated and will be fought with every recourse at our disposal. Mainers demanded affordable access to healthcare yesterday, and that is exactly what we intend to deliver."

Because of the inevitable delay of Medicaid expansion in Maine and the repeated (albeit failed) Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, affordable health care still faces an uncertain future. Meanwhile, Trump cut the advertising budget for ACA by 90 percent; we’re assuming he doesn’t want Americans to know that they can lock in coverage for 2018 by enrolling before Dec. 15.

But despite the uncertainty, thousands of Americans are signing up; Between November 1 and November 4, an average of 150,366 new members enrolled each day. (It’s important to note that individuals can drop their coverage without penalty should they become eligible for a different plan under the new Medicaid expansion.)

Given the state Legislature and the Federal government act on the measure, Maine will be the 32nd state to expand Medicaid, and the first to do so through a people’s vote. Other states like Utah, Missouri, and Idaho have been monitoring the situation as new committees there work on getting their own expansion effort on next year’s ballot.

“While states can end their expansion anytime, no state has done so," said Gramlich. Instead, they "cite huge economic benefits, the ability to provide coverage to low wage workers, the ability to provide very much needed resources to hospitals and community health centers, lower costs health insurance premiums on the Marketplace (about 7 percent less in states that have already expanded) and job creation."

"It’s no wonder other states that have not been able to expand would consider doing so. Keep in mind, Maine is the first state to pass expansion through citizen referendum at the ballot. Our motto — Dirigo – We Lead — would be fitting in this regard.”

  • Published in News

The far-right paint 'antifa' as a threat — But they’re the ones calling for violence

If you were to believe certain corners right-wing Internet communities, Nov. 4th marked the start of civil war in America.

Last week, hundreds of people across the country took to the streets for a protest action called “The Nightmare Must End,” to demand the removal of President Trump and Vice President Pence from office. Organized by left-leaning group Refuse Fascism, the series of protests — which took place in over 20 American cities — condemned attacks on minorities, immigrants, access to healthcare, the environment, and even truth itself, all of which they believe are encouraged by the Trump administration.

“Our actions will reflect the values of respect for all of humanity and the world we want — in stark contrast to the hate and bigotry of the Trump/Pence fascist regime,” writes Refuse Fascism on their website. “Our determination to persist and not back down will compel the whole world to take note. As we draw more and more people forward to stand up, all of this could lead to a situation where this illegitimate regime is removed from power.”

It was not what both conspiratorial sites like the Daily Stormer and Breitbart, and mainstream outlets like Fox News, warned would be an “antifa apocalypse.”

Other websites like InfoWars promulgated lies for weeks that the protests were a unified attempt to overthrow the government and spark a communist revolution. On their YouTube channel, known nut Alex Jones ranted that “antifa super soldiers” would lead the charge in tandem with a coordinated attack on the nation’s electrical grid. They cautioned Americans to be on the lookout for “masked anarchists sparking violence to promote its agenda.”

But last week’s protests never reached numbers higher than a couple hundred or escalated farther than shouting matches between anti-fascists and Trumpians. The majority of anti-racist activists didn’t even don masks and black clothing, and only one got arrested — a woman in NYC for throwing her drink at a Trump supporter. All in all, the protests were certainly nonviolent and almost uneventful.


So why were so many people obsessed with an imaginary coup?

A sizable portion of the blame falls not just on fringe media, but mainstream media for exaggerating the threat antifa poses by focusing their coverage in recent months on the few protesters that smashed windows, set trash cans on fire, or got arrested, while largely ignoring the thousands of others that demonstrated peacefully. The FBI’s recent classification of antifa back in September as a “domestic terrorism group” not only confirmed the far-right’s already exaggerated fears, but it made many run-of-the-mill liberals and centrists uneasy about throwing their support behind the decentralized movement.

But as Inkoo Kang, a writer for Slate argued last week, “antifa is clickbait for conspiracy theorists,” and most people who critique them don’t have a clear handle on what the “group” actually is.

“Epistemological chaos is a precondition for the conspiracy community,” writes Kang. “Add a dose of sneering superiority, the emotional register and quite possibly the attitudinal appeal of so many right-wing YouTubers, and it’s not surprising that conservatives with traditional values and wild imaginations can’t make up their minds about whether antifa activists are unmanly nuisances or a super-powered army ready to mow down everything decent about America.”

Whether right-wingers critical of antifa believe they're a whiny collection of leftist snowflakes, or an organized, apocalyptic threat to Western civilization is irrelevant; all in this camp are comfortable labeling anyone that marches under the movement as a violent enemy that must be fought.

This viewpoint falsely asserts that antifa is organized (indeed people and groups considered by others to be 'antifa' have popped up independently around the world for decades all with disparate political leanings, tactics, and even protest attire). It’s also dangerous because it breeds violence under the guise of fighting it; if a group is considered an enemy, violence is justified. According to the Combating Terrorism Center the U.S. sees an average of 300 attacks a year by far-right activists, and others forecast this number could rise under the current climate.  


The events of Charlottesville come to mind as a more recent example of how the villainization of left-wing protestors can lead to real-life tragedies. And this dangerous mentality is incubating online across every major social media platform. Spend a couple minutes searching and you'll find plenty of evidence of right-wing influencers who might not have assaulted an anti-fascist protester themselves but are actively calling for others to do so.  

Here are just but a few examples from the last week:


Retweeting a tweet with the hashtag #LockandLoad, conservative actor James Woods imagined that an antifa protest in Phoenix would be a “catastrophe” because of the city’s open-carry laws.

The day before the nationwide protests, notorious agitator Milo Yiannopoulos — whose hateful rhetoric sparked a big antifa protest in Berkeley last year — changed his Facebook avatar to a photo of himself holding a shotgun above the phrase, “I choose war.”

Youtuber “Glock Fanboy” told his subscribers in a video last month to prepare for the revolution.

“Honestly, I’m happy,” the YouTuber said in the video that currently has more than 400,000 views. “Dude, we’ve been on the verge of the great war for what seems like forever and I’m just ready to get it going.”


Hundreds of more examples that mirror this pro-violence sentiment exist online. Riled up by fake news, the far-right isn’t warning of a civil war, they’re trying to provoke one.

And as J.J. MacNab, an author, and researcher on anti-government extremism said last month, “fake news is going to get people killed.”


  • Published in News

8 Days: Electronic mayhem, ancient art-forms, and chances to be a better person



PEOPLE NEED A PUSH | No matter how many of our Facebook friends complain about the latest political issue, voter turnout continues to be abysmal. Imagine if everyone that lamented about today’s current climate actually registered to vote and supported progressive causes. What would that world look like? Gather with supporters of Question 2 — a measure that would expand health insurance to 70,000 Mainers — for a rally that will hopefully inspire those on the fence to care, and perhaps more importantly, get out and vote this week. | 5:30 pm | Lincoln Park, Congress St., Portland | Free |

EYE CANDY | Regardless of whether you’ve ever taken up skiing or snowboarding there’s something immensely satisfying about seeing a pro kick up powder and zoom down a slope. If you agree, then check out REI’s new film Rogue Elements because the athletes featured in it are complete masters of their craft; it’s a real visual treat. These guys defy death (and gravity) with such finesse, you just can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy — why can’t I be that badass? Catch these exhilarating displays of total control and tricky stunts during this special screening of a well-received ski and snowboard film. | 6:30 pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | $15 |

8days nickofferman

Most people love Nick Offerman's character Ron Swanson in Parks & Rec, but not many know his stand-up act is equally hilarious. 

BE A MAN | Comedian Nick Offerman offers up a downright hilarious parody of the ultimate “man’s man” in today’s pop culture. With wit and the perfect amount of dry humor, he’ll try to convince you it’s time to grow out a beard, take up woodworking, or hunt for your next meal. Just don’t take his advice too seriously or you’ll miss the satire and go full libertarian like the government-hating, meat-idolizing character Ron Swanson he plays on Parks and Recreation. If you missed his highly lauded appearance in Portland last year, don’t miss this stopover on his Full Bush tour! | 7 pm | Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland | $62 | https://boxoffice.por

8days blacktigersexmachine

Black Tiger Sex Machine continues the trend started by Daft Punk in the late '90s: wearing fantastical headgear to their electronic concerts. 

FUTURISTIC MAYHEM | This concert requires you to have some degree of mental stamina, for guests will be subjected to barrage of fierce beats, strange synths, and psychedelic sounds. Such is the nature of a Black Tiger Sex Machine show. The soundscape of their version of electronica is akin to a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and you’ll need a guide to ensure you’re not hallucinating. Thankfully these cat-masked performers are trained in most forms of the amorphous electronica genre — from straight dubstep and dark trap to orchestral stirrings and ambient loops. They’ll ease you through their otherworldly performance until you end up worshipping at their altar of Midnight Terrors alongside other pure bass music zealots. In other words, it’s a trippy good time. | 8 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland | $17-32 |


ONE SLICE AT A TIME | If you’re shrewd and frugal like me, you never turn down an opportunity for free pizza. Get on my level and come hang out the Oxbow Brewery for some cheesy pie and a screening of Spot Pizza, a gorgeously shot documentary that showcases some urban snowboarders and their crazy antics. | 8 pm | Oxbow Blending and Bottling, 49 Washington Ave., Portland | Free |




PUBLIC PARTY | The chilly bite of November wind is not enough to stop this hot showcase of music, art, and comedy at Congress Square Park popping off today, which comes by way of an effort by the Portland Culture Exchange. Swing by after work or during your First Friday shenanigans to warm up with the celebratory sounds of AFRiiCAN Dundada, Ben Shorr, Distant Brothers, Gold D, LOC DAB, and Kid Calvin. Life is short; go sing and dance. | 5 pm | Congress Square Park, Portland | Free |

8days herenow

ASMR is typically audio only, but Alyssa Freitas is debuting a video component to the art form at her Here/Now exhibit at SPACE Gallery this week. 

EAR-GASM | If you’ve never heard of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), you should Google some examples right now to determine if you’re one of the special few that get pleasurable sensations from accentuated, textured sounds. It’s an odd sort of thing, but once you feel the hair stand up on your arms and a wave of euphoria wash over you, you’ll instantly become an ASMR enthusiast. Trust me. Let Maine-based artist Alyssa Freitas trigger these foreign feelings lurking inside you with her anxiety annihilating project Here/Now. Her sound therapy starts tonight. | 5 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | Free |

BLEACH WEAR | Don’t be fooled into thinking that big clothing corporations and Hollywood stars have a monopoly on what is and isn’t fashion. In our postmodern world where essentially everything is a social construct, you’re free to wear literally anything and call it art. In the minds of Providence artist Nick Carter and Portland’s youth collective Kesho Wazo, bleach-stained streetwear punctuated by patches of screen printed imagery is totally in right now. Or maybe it isn't. The point is, it doesn’t matter. Decide for yourself and see their unique collection at this fashion show billed as featuring items somewhere between urban punk and flashy couture. | 6:30 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | Free |

DARK RITUALS | Wanderers of the dark side of Portland’s music scene take heed, this show’s a legitimate assault on the senses. Don’t despair (or do, if that’s your thing) for these four ear-piercing bands plan on opening a portal to the doomscape at Geno’s tonight: Primitive Man (death-sludge out of Denver), Bellwitch (a minimal metal duo from Seattle), Shabti (Portland’s own purveyor of death sounds), and Scrotal Tear, local ritualists who, like their name suggests, aren’t afraid to dish out some sonic pain. Hosted by Last Mercy Emissions. | 9 pm | Geno’s Rock Club, 625 Congress St., Portland | $8 |



SPIN IT | It’s always a delight to discover what kind of musical gems are hiding inside WMPG’s basement. Every year the community radio station drags a portion of their massive collection into the USM gymnasium for their Annual Record Sale, which is likely one of the biggest in town. Join dozens of music junkies as they peruse through both the oddities and mainstays of music history. Maybe you don’t collect and just want to support local radio and talk tunes with other music geeks; that’s cool too. But no matter your purpose or favorite genre — jazz, rock, hip-hop, funk, blues, pop — you’ll find something to appreciate on one of the 60 tables there. | 10 am to 3 pm | USM Sullivan Gym, 66 Falmouth St., Portland | $2 |

TREAT YO SELF | Voting a single person or company in as Maine’s “Best Baker” is no easy feat, but there’s a lot of lip-smacking pleasure to be had deciding. The Hemophilia Alliance of Maine invites Portland to what’s essentially the state’s biggest bake sale — dozens of vendors will be offering free mouthfuls of sugar and flour in all its perfected forms. (For reference, Standard Bakery won Best Bakery in our very own ‘Best Of Portland’ contest earlier this year; I wonder how they’ll fare at this event). Skip lunch today and make room for a week’s worth of donuts, brownies, cookies, and cupcakes. You know you want to. | 10 am to 3 pm | Ocean Gateway, 12 Ocean Gateway Pier, Portland |

RUMOURS ABOUND | Musical tastes evolve and change but a love for Fleetwood Mac seldom dies. Join city vocalist Susanne Gerry and her group of faithful re-creators for a nostalgic tribute show that reminds us that heartbreak isn’t such a bad thing. | 9 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland |


 8days insearch

This film will certainly make you hungry. Thankfully, it's followed by a tasting of Israeli food.

KOSHER NOMS | Hummus and falafel are often regarded as Jewish foods, but technically they’re not. Although these delicious foods are staples of Jewish cuisine, they were actually invented by Arabs in Egypt centuries before Israel was even a state. Learning this fact last week got me thinking about how much of Jewish cuisine was actually reappropriated from the diverse cultures surrounding Israel. A screening of In Search of Israeli Cuisine hosted by the Maine Jewish Film Festival and the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine will provide me with answers. Indeed, as the film and follow up food tasting from Portland chefs Daniel Heinrich and Haggai Bernstein will show, Israel has its own rich culinary landscape. So just because Israel can’t claim unique credit for the two most popular Middle Eastern foods, it doesn’t mean they don’t have their own fair share of mouth-watering dishes. | 4 pm | Jewish Community Alliance, 1342 Congress St., Portland | $25 |


8days bronxgothic

A screenshot from Okwui Okpokwasili’s electrifying film Bronx Gothic. 

TOUR DE FORCE | Tonight’s screening of Okwui Okpokwasili’s Bronx Gothic might make those ill-equipped (or unwilling) to confront the realities of race relations uncomfortable. Or to put it bluntly, readers should be prepared for a night that isn’t centered around whiteness (for once). Because Okpokwasili’s acclaimed one-woman show that tours through SPACE today challenges audiences with artistic responses to an important question: What is like for black and brown bodies to move through a world that privileges white ones? Mesmerizing song and viscerally physical dance illuminate this line of inquiry that many have tried to keep in the shadows. Stick around after the screening for a Q&A with the Brooklyn-based Okpokwasili herself, who’ll offer fascinating insight on melding social issues into the creative process. | 7 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | $8 |



MINI BEER FEST | Does Portland produce the best craft beer in America? Because of the insular, self-congratulatory nature of this city, it’s certainly easy to think so. But we must recognize the wonderful chemistry brewers are enabling elsewhere in New England. Branch out from your usual go-tos and sample some beers that traveled 250 miles to be featured in the Thirsty Pig’s Vermont Beer Fest. Folks there are going to have a selection featuring, but not limited to, Lawson's Finest Liquids, Stowe Cider, von Trapp Brewing, and Foley Brothers Brewing. And yeah, you better pair these fine creations with a sausage or two. | 5 pm | The Thirsty Pig, 37 Exchange St., Portland |

LAUGHING > CRYING | Because of the way humans organize themselves around the concept of “work,” Mondays will forever be the Worst Day of the Week. But at least Portland has a coalition of very funny people dedicated to curing people of those bouts of alienation with one of life’s best anti-depressants: laughter. You don’t need to talk to your doctor to see if stand up comedy from Justin P. Drew, Mark Turcotte, Lee Newton, Micaela Tepler, Jed Bloom, Dawn Hartill, and Keith Hebert will work for you. This edition is hosted by Anders J. Nielsen. Be there and cheer up. | 8 pm | Blue, 650 Congress St., Portland | $5 |




INCONVENIENT TRUTHS | According to many prominent racial justice writers/activists like DeRay Mckesson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, or Munroe Bergdorf, racism is woven into the fabric of American society. They say that white people born into a society that allegedly prioritizes their experiences can unknowingly slip into racist modes of thinking and communication. While that certainly isn’t a nice thing to hear (speaking as a white person), it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for white folks to be good-natured and supportive of anti-racism work. Social justice activists recommend starting with recognizing an insidious little neurobiological phenomenon called implicit bias. Don’t know what that is? Learn more about the psychological foundations of racist thinking during a free lecture happening today at USM. It could be a great way to dismantle that nasty “us vs. them” mentality. | 5 pm | USM Wishcamper Center, 34 Bedford St., Portland | Free |

TINY ACTION | You should make tonight's dinner at OTTO Pizza, because a big portion of the dine in and take out sales will go to Limitless Children, a local nonprofit that provides essential services to children living in slums and orphanages in India. It’s literally the least you could do. | 5 pm to 9 pm | OTTO Pizza, 225 Congress St., Portland |  207.358.7870 |

8days thorandfriends

This trio of multi-instrumentalists will evoke some dreamy, mysterious moods at SPACE Gallery this Tuesday.

MELODIC MEDITATIONS | Big props to bands like Thor & Friends that embrace idiosyncrasy and ignite imagination with non-traditional instruments like the marimba, xylophone, gongs, duduk, and oboe. The three musicians of this Austin-based group attribute their polyrhythmic wizardry to influences from classic minimalist composers like Terry Riley and Steve Reich as well as ambient music giants like Brian Eno and Aphex Twin. Step into their highly suggestive, percussion-driven world when they perform tracks from their sophomore album Subversive Nature of Kindness at SPACE tonight. | 8 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | $12 |


START SMALL | Mechanisms for progressive changes in society almost always start locally in city government. If you’re interested in getting into politics, (or just becoming an informed citizen) attend this Annual District Meeting where you can shake hands with Councilor Belinda Ray, City Manager Jon Jennings, and Mayor Ethan Strimling, and learn about what’s going on in City Hall. If you’ve already met them and want to just air some neighborhood grievances, this is the time and place to have your voice heard. Take note, this meeting’s geared toward District 1, which covers the peninsula; meetings focused on other districts are scheduled throughout the month of November. | 6:30 pm | East End Community School, 195 North St., Portland | Free |

TIMELESS MEDIUMS | Because oral storytelling predates writing — which itself was invented around 3200 B.C. — it may very well be the oldest form of entertainment. In the beginning, people gathered to hear tales straight from the mouths of their creators, and thousands of years later, we’re still doing it. Tonight the Portland Public Library inadvertently honors this ancient and intimate tradition by hosting Tellabration, an event from the Maine Organization of Storytelling Enthusiasts. Storytellers slated include: Jean Armstrong, Vernon Cox, Debb Freedman, Fred Kilfoil, Audrey Mason, Michael Parent, Katy Rydell, and Don Spears. | 6:45 pm | Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Sq., Portland | Free |



STAY ACTIVE | November’s easily the second dreariest month of the year so it’s crucial to have tools to fight those beasts we call boredom and apathy that seem so ubiquitous to the season. Fortunately, Portland will continue to do what no other Maine town does better: consistently offer stimulating, intellectually rich, cosmopolitan events. And here at the Phoenix we’ll faithfully provide the deets. Check in these pages next week for more on these great antidotes against the doldrums, including an unflinching exploration of America’s prison system, a screening of Loving Vincent, the world’s first fully oil painted feature film, a blind tasting contest of Portland’s most popular beers, and an ornate concert featuring psych pop juggernaut Madaila, and Portland’s Spencer Albee. Pick us up again in 8 days.

Will Maine's adult-use marijuana bill survive?

LR 2395 – An Act To Amend The Marijuana Legalization Act passed in the Maine House and Senate last Monday but it still faces an uncertain future. Supporters and opponents suspect that Gov. LePage will veto it, despite his pledge last year not to overturn the will of the voters. 

Opinions around the legislative rewrite — which has been worked on by a special committee for 7 months — remain contentious. 

Some, oppose it simply from an implicit conservative reaction that labels anything to do with cannabis policy as something good people wouldn’t meddle in. (Although they should really realize that this bill doesn’t repeal what voters passed last November, and in fact sets up necessary regulations and third-party testing requirements that actually discourages criminal activity and unsafe product.)

Others, like Ken Fredette the House Republican Leader, Minority Office. (R-Newport), want to kill the bill from a slightly more pragmatic stance, voicing that it calls for too much soon and that the Legislature needs more time to debate such a controversial proposal that was passed by such a thin margin. Spurred by Gov. LePage, last week Fredette called for a moratorium on the commercial aspects of the bill for the second year in a row — delaying recreational marijuana sales in Maine to January 2019 at the earliest. House members killed that measure last Monday. 

The 76-page bill is certainly ambitious and hashes out aspects like licensing requirements, tax rates, proper labeling, age restrictions, testing, and pathways for revenue. It’s a lot to sift through and Fredette's pushing for a moratorium so they can make sure Maine's carefully drafting good policy and closing any potential loopholes.

Supporters of the amendment just want it passed already so they can apply for licenses, plus they don’t really have a plan B; if LePage does veto as expected, the recreational market wouldn't be set up until 2019 at the earliest.

"Now we all wait and see what the governor does or does not do," said Christopher O'Neil, a Portland-based cannabis policy consultant. "Some things in politics just don’t make sense. Show me any nascent industry being hamstrung by legislative action — or inaction — and I’ll show you a governor with his hair on fire." 

O'Neil said that these delays are affecting entrepreneurs and growers like the folks at the Westbrook cannabis company Grass Monkey, who have a "nuanced and costly business plan that is sensitive to lots of risks, including time."
"For years they’ve invested staggering amounts in R&D, cloning methodologies, facilities, and advanced technologies, resulting in a product line that is ready to light up the market," said O'Neil. "Now we just need the easy part of that plan: the market." 

Those anxious to launch into this lucrative market — the sales of which could be valued at $220 million by 2020 in Maine — are content with passing a less-than-perfect bill to get there. 

But there’s one portion of the amendment that was allegedly added last minute and would make it harder for recreational market hopefuls to do business in certain towns. A revision of the adult use marijuana bill states the towns and have to “opt-in” to Maine’s marijuana law take proactive steps to enact their own policies on a municipal level. Originally the ballot measure allowed municipalities to “opt out,” and “prohibit the operation of some or all types of marijuana establishments within the municipality.”

Republican Sen. Roger Katz (Augusta) who co-chairs the special committee that drafted the amendment said that the slight change in language still adheres to the original bill, which stated that marijuana was to be regulated like alcohol. (Towns in Maine do have to vote to opt-in to allow bars and breweries within their borders.)

“Every community is going to have to look at this one way or another,” said Katz, in a radio interview with WGAN. “The local control, every town and city in Maine can make their own decisions about how much commercial activity they want in their town; that’s been absolutely non-controversial right from the beginning.”  

But the president of Legalize Maine, Paul McCarrier said on the same WGAN news radio show that because of the change in language, he no longer supports Katz’s rewrite. According to Carrier, it’s harder to convince towns to opt-in instead of not support an all-out ban. The result, McCarrier says, would encourage the black market and slow down the implementation of the legal recreational market even further.

“This bill is going to cause chaos,” said McCarrier. “It’s not ready for primetime. Right now what voters approved, municipalities can vote to prohibit. But what this new bill proposes is de facto prohibition across the state. Every Maine municipality is going to have a revote whether marijuana is legal or not.”

If the rewrite of the Marijuana Legalization Act does manage to get signed into law with its current opt-in language, cannabis entrepreneurs will flock and set up shop in the towns they know won’t be hostile to their business. Those folks probably already know which city councils are for and against storefronts and commercial grow operations in their municipalities.

One just has to look at which ones are already being proactive and drafting marijuana ordinances, like Hallowell for example.

“This is a mutually beneficial industry to everybody,” said Jared Dinsmore one of the owners of Grass Monkey. “We would expect that municipalities that would like to have earnings in this industry would be willing to put some time and energy now before the legislation to help out these industry members.”

Other towns like Monmouth, Windham, Yarmouth, and York are considering their own moratorium until they can either take the state’s lead on a regulatory framework that works for them or prohibit marijuana sales there altogether.

“They’re using their two timeouts before they even get the rules,” said Dinsmore. “So once they get the rules they’re going to be expected have an ordinance in no time. We spend a lot of time consulting for municipalities, touring our gardens, answering questions and then find out they are moving for a ban. We are confused about where the allegiances of some municipalities lie.”


The Big Bad Budget: Trump's plan will help the rich and hurt the poor

President Trump and the GOP's trillion dollar budget resolution that aims to set the stage for the biggest tax reform in U.S. history passed the Senate last week, 51 to 49. 

But here's the thing, although many folks across the political aisle agree that the U.S. tax code needs reform and simplification in some way, this plan — which is far from becoming law — does not affect Americans equally. It has clear winners and losers and is basically a clandestine Obamacare repeal. 

Trump referred to the budget on Twitter last Saturday as a “really big deal” and said later in a press conference that it would help the middle class hold onto more of their hard-earned money. Its critics say that it would instead benefit the country’s richest individuals and biggest corporations.  

Which makes the fact that Maine Senator Susan Collins voted in favor of the budget framework all the more puzzling — two years ago she was the only Republican senator to vote against a plan to repeal the estate tax, and just recently she was a crucial no vote in the Obamacare repeal effort that had massive tax cuts for the rich attached to it.

Despite Collins's "good conscience" (words she used to describe why she voted against last month's Graham-Cassidy Bill) and reputation of moderate rationalism, last week she supported a measure that's been described by critics as "good for the GOP and a disaster for the rest of us."  

Other progressives were quick to rebuke the Republican budget proposal. 

Senator Bernie Sanders penned an op-ed in the Guardian last week blasting the resolution as a “gift to the billionaires.”

"The Republican budget, which will likely be debated on the floor of the Senate this week, is the Robin Hood principle in reverse," Sanders writes. "It takes from those in need and gives to those who are already living in incredible opulence."

According to the Tax Policy Center, 80 percent of the tax cuts proposed will benefit the nation’s top 1 percent of earners while 30 percent of Americans making between $50,000 and $150,000 a year would see their taxes go up by an average of more than $1,000 a year.

In Maine, according to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, the top 1 percent whose average income is $1.2 million, would receive an average tax cut of $43,130. The poorest 20 percent, whose average income is $13,000, would get an average cut of $90.

“The budget set in motion by Thursday’s vote is a net loss for the vast majority of Mainers who are little more than an afterthought in the GOP tax proposal," said Sarah Austin, policy analyst at the Maine Center for Economic Policy. "The budget the GOP aims to pass  through the resolution process is designed to benefit the wealthiest 1% with enormous tax cuts and places in harms way the tens of thousands of Maine seniors and families that depend on responsible federal budgets for affordable health care, quality education, and basic food assistance.”

Maine’s Senator Angus King said in remarks on the Senate floor that you don’t have to be an economist to understand that “these aren’t tax cuts, they’re shift and shaft — shift the costs from us, and shaft our kids.” King also highlighted how the proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid would impact senior citizens the most.

“The biggest losers in this whole process would be seniors,” said King. “They will take the most serious hit. If you’re cutting Medicare, you’re hitting seniors. And what people don’t realize about Medicaid is that 70 percent of the nursing home beds in America are paid for by Medicaid. By definition who’s in those beds? Seniors.”

King voted no, as did every Democrat in the Senate, but the resolution still passed 51 to 49. In order to be labeled “deficit neutral” and free up $1 trillion in tax relief, the budget calls for cutting over $5 trillion in social safety net programs, including $473 billion from Medicare and $1 trillion from Medicaid over 10 years. Experts say this could boot 15 million Americans off their health insurance.

“The budget that passed the Senate yesterday hurts our nation’s most vulnerable — which is why I voted against it,” tweeted California's Senator Kamala Harris last week.

  • Other aspects the budget framework include:
  • * A legislative mechanism called a budget reconciliation that allows Republicans to bypass a Democratic filibuster and pass the bill with 50 votes.

  • * A pathway for oil drilling in the pristine wilderness (and sacred Indigenous land) of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by instructing the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to find 1 billion dollars in new revenue.

  • * An increase in the federal deficit by $1.5 over the next decade which will likely be addressed by cuts to social security.

  • * A $37 billion cut to affordable housing and the Section 8 rental assistance program which could impact more than 1 million families.

  • * A $6.5 billion cut to the WIC program over the next decade which would eliminate nutrition assistance 1.25 million women and children.

  • * A $100 billion cut in Pell Grant funding which would make college much less affordable for millions.

  • * An increase of $91 billion in Pentagon defense spending for the fiscal year 2018 alone.

Republicans hope to sign this budget into law by the end of this year, but it will take a lot of political wrangling to get there. For starters, it can only afford to lose two GOP votes in the Senate to pass the final product along party lines and still needs to be approved by the Congressional Budget Office.

It’s also uncertain whether the resolution will pass in the House in its current state, but what is clear is that Republicans in both chambers are aligned with Trump in achieving the same goals (albeit with slightly different strategies): an increase defense spending, and an erosion of social safety nets to pave the way for tax cuts to the nation’s wealthiest. 

At a time when income inequality in America is at its most profound level since the 1920s, this Republican budget aims to make those gaps between the poor, rich, and middle class even wider.

  • Published in News

What's taking so long? Mainers are anxious to start buying and selling recreational marijuana

Hundreds gathered at last week’s 3rd Annual New England Cannabis Convention amidst stalls displaying everything from the latest lighting and trimming technology, cultivation products, and an array of the latest strains, vaporizers, edibles, and CBD topicals, to talk shop about marijuana.

But underlying the industry chatter among vendors and attendees was an overwhelming sense of frustration with the delayed implementation of the measure voters approved of in November 2016 and the uncertainty surrounding its rewrite currently crawling through the legislature.

One question steered many of the conversations at the two-day convention: How long will it take before Maine’s recreational marijuana market is up and running?

“People voted for this, it's time to give them what they voted for,” said Dr. Trevor Boseman, an independent medical marijuana consultant from Brunswick on the NECANN floor. (Marc Shepard, the co-founder and president of NECANN, is an associate publisher of the Phoenix.)

A special bi-partisan committee has worked for seven months to amend last year’s citizen’s initiative and write a more responsible adult-use marijuana bill which aims to set up the licensing regulations, product safety requirements, age restrictions, and avenues for tax revenue (estimated at $220 million by 2020) for the recreational market in Maine.

Other aspects of the bill include a 10 percent sales tax and a 10 percent excise tax based on weight, provisions for law enforcement to receive six percent of collected sales tax, home cultivation limits to 12 plants, and a requirement that those applying for a recreational marijuana operation must have lived and paid taxes in Maine for at least two years.

Boseman doesn’t agree with everything in the bill (like the extra excise tax, which wasn’t in the original ballot question), but supports it regardless because he’s tired of all the stalling.

“I just want to see it go forward it whatever capacity, so people have access to it,” said Boseman. “On the medical side, some patients don’t want to get a green card, and they should be able to get it [marijuana] over the counter.”

Entrepreneurs looking to burgeon into this new market support the bill because without it recreational marijuana sales would be in a legal limbo and an unfettered, unlicensed, and untaxed black market would be in its place.

Grass Monkey, a family owned and operated cannabis company out of Westbrook, serves medical patients. But they’re hoping to sell to consumers 21 and over inside a Portland storefront offering numerous different strains of both indica and sativa. 

“I’m impressed with this bill, it will be the best one in the U.S. if passed,” said Jared Dinsmore of Grass Monkey. "They understand that the free market will dictate who stays in business and who goes. I appreciate the allowance of delivery services. I appreciate third-party testing; you can’t let people give themselves their own seals of approval. I’m happy that the state is taking on the task of responsibly drawing up a good bill for everybody.”

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Jared Dinsmore of the Portland cannabis company Grass Monkey showing off his product at the third annual New England Cannabis Convention. 

But it’s unclear what will happen once the bill reaches a divided House floor for deliberation or once it lands on LePage’s desk for potential signature.

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) — who is against the legalization of marijuana in general — will vote against the bill because it lumps too many issues into one measure. Nobody knows how many Republicans will follow his lead.

David Boyer, Maine’s director of the Marijuana Policy Project said he’s almost certain that Gov. LePage will veto the bill. According to Boyer, if LePage continues to drag his feet on this, the earliest Mainers could see marijuana storefronts and social clubs is summer 2019.

“I’m disappointed in the Governor, he seems to have gone back on his word,” said Boyer, who played a big role in last year’s legalization effort. “If he vetoes it, Question 1 is still the law of the land, and we’ll still be in this awkward place where marijuana is legal to grow and own, but not to sell or buy.”

Boyer spent a lot of time at the convention urging folks living in Republican districts to call their legislator, in hopes of drumming up the two-third votes needed to override a potential veto.

“We don’t support everything in it, but we support the passage of it,” said Boyer. “Even if you don’t like marijuana at all, you still probably want this bill because it adds restrictions and regulations. It’s time to get moving on this.”

The Battle For Fair Rent — What You Need To Know About Question 1

It's no secret that Portland is changing — and fast. Tons of development money is pouring in, and with it, a different class of people who can afford higher rents, a process that has accelerated the displacement of long-term residents and exacerbated the housing crunch in the city. On November 7, Portlanders will vote on Question 1, the ordinance proposed by the upstart citizens' group Fair Rent Portland, which aims to cap the rate of rental increases and provide more protections for tenants.

The vote will be important for the future of the city. But with both sides of the debate accusing each other of distorting facts, the average citizen is often left confused.

For starters, the arguments offered aren’t both rooted in the same premise — namely, that rents are rising in Portland at such a pace that it’s disproportionately affecting low and middle-income earners. Opponents of Question 1 don’t agree; they say rents haven’t increased in the past two years.

But they have. The fair market rental rate for a two-bedroom in Portland was $1,012 in 2014. Since then, it’s risen to $1,348. According to the online real estate database Zillow, rents have risen by 40 percent in the past five years.

A recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition titled Out of Reach found that a Mainer earning the average renter wage of $10.98 an hour would have to work 80 hours a week to afford a fair market rate two-bedroom apartment costing $939 a month (affordability is defined here as spending less than 30 percent of one's income on rent). And that’s just the average cost for the entire state. Portland itself is indeed more expensive to live in than ever before.

Those opposing rent stabilization, a group calling themselves Say No To Rent Control, has been rebuked by critics for indulging in fear-mongering, conflating rent stabilization with rent control and falsely claiming that the rent-stabilization ordinance would increase property taxes.

Members of Fair Rent Portland consider the signs and flyers their opposition has peppered all over town “manipulative and designed to frighten Portland voters.”

“The most obvious and dramatic aspect of the flyer is how it is almost a non-sequitur,” said Jack O’Brien, a member of Fair Rent Portland. “While there are many reasons that people have come out against rent stabilization, this one has almost no basis in the economic literature, empirical studies, or even what other opposition campaigns have come out with in the past.”

Who Doesn't Like Fair Rent?

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Brit Vitalius, the president of the Southern Maine Landlords Association, speaking at a recent Say No To Rent Control Rally. Photo Courtesy of Say No To Rent Control. 

Say No To Rent Control is a loosely organized coalition mostly comprised of landlords, real estate agents, contractors and developers. The group is promoted by the Southern Maine Landlords Association and Port Property, the single largest housing company in the city, and their address, 306 Congress Street, shares the same address for The Vitalius Group, one of the area's biggest real estate companies.

Naturally, their campaign has a big financial advantage. The Portland Press Herald reported that the Say No To Rent Control still has over $100,000 left in their campaign coffers, compared to $3,200 for Fair Rent Portland. As evidenced by the big turnout at a Say No To Rent Control rally last week at Lincoln Park, the group appears to be determined to squash this ordinance.

It’s worth noting that suspicions suggesting that the opposition's marketing is being run out of Washington D.C. are unfounded. Derek Lavallee, who manages public relations for the opposition campaign, does write as a columnist for the conservative-leaning D.C.-based website The Hill, but he’s lived and worked out of Portland since 2010. (He believes that Fair Rent Portland is the group responsible for disseminating flyers filled with falsehoods, but more on that later.)

Together, Lavallee and a coalition of landlords are pushing the narrative that Question 1 is a “poorly written ordinance” and throwing around a lot of money to convince you that a yes vote would be a disaster for Portland. In this piece, we’ll examine their biggest gripes.

What would Question 1 do?

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Campaign signs for Fair Rent Portland. 

If approved by voters, the ordinance would set up a special volunteer panel which would settle rent increase and eviction disputes in the city — one of the worries here is that the panel would automatically be biased toward tenants, regardless of the issue.

Article XII Sec. 6-250 of the proposed ordinance reads: “The city shall take reasonable steps, but is not required, to appoint to the Rent Board at least one (1) Landlord and at least four (4) tenants.”

Under the ordinance, the board would have the authority to approve or deny proposed rent increases, make rulings on appeals brought forth by tenants challenging evictions, and fine landlords if they don’t follow the provisions laid out in the ordinance.

In other words, it’s an effort to hold landlords more accountable and address the power imbalance between them and their tenants. What it's not is a group of citizens arbitrarily setting a cap on rental increases with no chance for discussion (like the Say No crowd warns). In fact, the ordinance ties the annual allowable rent increase to inflation, and if landlords have a property improvement that warrants a rent increase, they can appeal to the board. 

But there remain valid concerns that the seven-person board would be ill-equipped to mediate the myriad of rental increase and eviction disputes amongst the 18,000 or so renters in Portland.  

“The volunteer panel would replace eviction court and this is a completely unworkable proposal,” said Lavallee. “This would be an unreasonably expensive and time-consuming task, and the replacement of the court system with volunteers without any legal experience would be an injustice to both renters and landlords.”

The proposed ordinance would remain active for five years with a section of it stating that the Portland City Council "will determine to amend, renew, or terminate it 180 days prior to January 1, 2025." The opposition doesn’t appreciate this so-called “sunset clause,” and its potential to keep rent-stabilization on the books for seven years, five of which without a chance for a slight amendment.

Question 1 would also increase the city registration fee for new units up $30, from $35 to $65. However, this provision and the overall cap on allowable increase percentage wouldn't apply to landlords who own less than six units under the ordinance.

There are other concerns the Say No To Rent Control side has with the rent stabilization ordinance, but perhaps their biggest one is that under it landlords believe they’d lose the incentive to upgrade units and invest in new developments. They say this would “lead to a shortage of affordable housing.”

Overall, they believe that rent-stabilization would contribute to the problem it’s trying to ameliorate by pushing landlords to develop condos or use AirBnb to rent rooms to circumnavigate the regulations that cut into their profits. Using this logic, poor people looking for housing in a tight market would lose out the most.

“It’s really just not a well-written document,” said Dana Totman, the CEO of Avesta Housing, Portland's largest provider of affordable housing. “It will not have a positive effect, I think it will probably lead to many apartments being converted to condominiums or Airbnb just to avoid this whole thing. People will try to get out of the apartment business, and that’s not good for affordability.”

This argument is puzzling, especially coming from people who claim to care about gentrification in Portland, like Jonathan Culley, a housing developer and board member at Avesta Housing. Culley opposes Question 1 and appeared in a recent ad for the Say No campaign saying "rent control initiatives favor middle and upper-income professionals, they favor people with good educations, they favor people who are well connected, and they favor people with high credit scores, and these are not the people that need the help.

In other words, poor people need help and housing, but landlords make more money when they don't rent to them. 

The Say No To Rent Control website cites a study called “Rent Control: Do Economists Agree?” that backs up the claim that rent-control policies hurt the people it intends to help the most. Written by Blair Jenkins in 2009, it concludes that 93 percent of economists in the American Economic Association consider rent-stabilization bad policy.

“There is a whole host of economic studies that show the negative impacts of rent control,” said Lavallee. “The primary problem with rent controls is that they create supply shortages — meaning less affordable housing.”

Referencing the study, copy on a Say No To Rent Control leaflet reads: “This means more competition for fewer housing units, resulting in a market that favors landlords instead of tenants. With a cap on rental costs, this means things like credit scores and work history will become even more important to property owners when approving tenants. It is more likely that higher-income earners will be favored based on their ability to afford rent.”

Dubious sources?

However, Fair Rent Portland takes issue with citing this study because it “systematically excludes almost all of the recent research on rent stabilization,” including all work from Canada and Europe, and the work of Edward Olson and Richard Arnott, the two leading economists who’ve studied it..

“She’s cherry-picking information and publishing it on a free-market think-tank page,” said O’Brien. “I would not call that a credible source.”

And even if 93 percent of economists "agree that rent-control is bad policy, it's useful here to consider the work of Arnott who argued in a 1997 paperthat critics of rent control often deride its oldest versions, instead of examining modern policies that have since been reformed. For example, like Fair Rent Portland’s proposal, many rent-stabilization policies across the U.S. exempt landlords from the cap on rental increases when dealing with new tenants (something called vacancy decontrol), or constructing new units. Arnott argues that rent control programmes should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, rather than being opposed in general.

"Second-generation rent controls are typically mild and so can be expected to have only modest effects on the housing market,” reads a portion of Arnott’s study. “As a result, expert opinion on the effects of modern rent control policies has become increasingly agnostic.”

Loss of theoretical revenue

Jenkins herself recognizes that over 140 jurisdictions have implemented rent-control policies across the U.S. just since 2001, each one distinctly unique in definition and execution. The flyers choose to mention two cities as examples of rent control gone wrong: “from Berkeley, California, to New York City, the adoption of rent control in communities around the country has resulted in massive erosion of tax revenues.” It then warns voters ominously, “don’t let Portland be the next city on the list.”

But the interesting thing according to O’Brien is that the studies cited on the flyer only tenuously back up its claims.

The first citation on the flyer points to a thorough, glowing report from the City of Berkeley about their rent-stabilization program from 1978-1994, which was implemented to shield low-earning renters from the rising costs of land in the Bay Area. During that period, the average controlled rent in Berkeley was 35 to 40 percent below what it would have been without controls. Landlords did see a decrease in profits — down from 19 percent return on investment to 9 percent — but this had “little to if any effect” on building repair and maintenance expenditures.

“All of the disasters predicted by critics did not come to pass,” said O’Brien.

In fact, the study shows that the policy was successful in stabilizing communities, decreasing transience, slowing rent increases, and retaining more black, disabled, and elderly residents than neighboring cities.

“Overall the Bay Area suffered a staggering loss of more than half of its most affordable rental units due to rent increases. Berkeley held its loss of low-rent units to half the rate of the Bay Area and was far more successful than any of its neighbors in maintaining its stock of low-rent housing,” the study reads.

The claim the opposition makes about the erosion of tax revenues stems solely from page 132 of the study, a section on foregone revenue, which is calculated as what Berkeley would have made if its buildings had increased at the same rate as surrounding towns without a rent-stabilization policy. It reads that rent stabilization diminished increases in the resale value of multi-unit buildings in Berkeley and the value of buildings in outside the city increased at a higher rate.

Berkeley's tax base from multi-units did not shrink but grew more slowly than that of its neighbors. But since Berkeley did not collect this virtual revenue that they might otherwise have had, they might have had to increase property taxes. So essentially, there was no tax increase directly related to the stabilization policy.

“It’s not remotely like a property tax increase,” said O’Brien.

When asked directly whether the rent-stabilization ordinance would increase property taxes in Portland, Lavallee didn’t refer to a formal tax increase, instead saying: “Question 1 would cause the devaluation of rental properties, based on their limits revenue potential. When these properties drop in value, it would create a decrease in tax revenue. This would put pressure on other revenue sources like property taxes for homeowners to replace lost tax revenue from devalued rental properties.”

The last citation on the flyer — titled A Financial Analysis On Rent Regulations In New York City — says that a rent control initiative cost the city over 4 billion in taxable property values in the late 1980s. But it’s unclear if the study connects that loss directly to an increase in property taxes. “That study is even stranger,” says O’Brien.

First off, it’s incredibly hard to find.

“I’m an academic and I know how to search a library, but I could not find that book,” said O’Brien who searched every major university in New England and the Library of Congress. “I don’t think anyone actually read this book. I would be interested to see if they could produce a copy.”

The only copy readily available comes from Albany, New York, and is considered questionable by Fair Rent Portland because it was commissioned by landlords in New York to argue against rent regulations and is largely cited concerning the distribution of units in the city.

But the struggles of enacting rent-control in much bigger cities like New York and Berkeley might not serve as a good analog for Portland; each city has very different housing stocks, available space, income distributions, and demographics. Fair Rent Portland modeled their ordinance off of existing ones in the smaller cities of West Hollywood, CA and Takoma Park, MD.

According to a story in the Washington Post, in Takoma Park, one apartment building called the Hampshire Tower was granted exemption from their city’s rent stabilization policy under the condition that they’d renovate units and address over 100 code violations. What was the result? Sure, residents received upgraded apartments but they also got a 70 percent increase in rents — up from $1,098 a month to $1,600. This displaced dozens of lower-income residents, primarily first-generation immigrants.

But elsewhere in the city, where rent-control policies were enacted, the immediate housing crisis was relieved and long-term development and growth were supported; today Takoma is home to a “thriving middle class.”

Facts or feelings

feature munjoyhill

With hugely well-funded interests backing the Say No To Rent Control campaign and these seemingly founded allegations of promulgating misinformation, it’s no surprise that Fair Rent Portland doesn’t consider this a fair fight. O’Brien considers the political tactics of their opponents as nothing new, saying that it fits right into how debates have been conducted in the U.S. for decades.

“The majority of people can agree on an issue, but what wealthy interests have learned since the '70s is that the only thing you have to do to stop a progressive policy is gin up enough fear and insecurity that people vote no out of a sort of pragmatic conservatism,” said O’Brien. “That’s a trick they’ve used over and over again, from climate change to labor laws to minimum wage.”

But the Say No To Rent Control crowd also accuses their opponents of distorting facts, with a page of their website dedicated to “fact checking” Fair Rent Portland’s flyers which they say are “riddled with false statements.” Of the seven allegedly debunked points, three seem to be onto something: Fair Rent Portland claims that their ordinance is as an “interim measure” (seven years is hardly an interim), that it “encourages construction of affordable housing” (there’s nothing in Question 1 about that), and that Portland “recently ranked #2 in the nation for rent increases (it technically did for one month in 2015, but the larger picture ranks Portland 2,750th out of 13,113 cities for rate of rent increases).

A lack of a shared set of facts and general confusion around an issue can lead to extreme polarization, when in fact, both sides might simultaneously voice truths: rent stabilization can protect tenants against arbitrary rent increases or evictions and impact housing quantity and quality. And when a political issue is objectively complex, it’s tempting to make it subjectively simple, encouraging voters to make a decision based on morals and personal philosophy.

In an interview with Pacific Standard, Joshua Mason, an economics professor at Roosevelt University alluded to this notion by saying that “the real goal of rent control is protecting the moral rights of occupancy," something that's not guaranteed in a free-market.

“Long-term tenants who contributed to this being a desirable place to live have a legitimate interest in staying in their apartments,” said Mason. “If we think that income diverse, stable neighborhoods, where people are not forced to move every few years, [are worth preserving] then we collectively have an interest in stabilizing the neighborhood.”

As is often the case with political debates revolving around intellectually dense topics like economics and public policy, it’s common practice to eschew statistics, distort studies to fit a narrative, shamelessly exploit fears, and instead call for people to squeeze themselves into just two morally subjective camps of people: those that believe housing is a product, and those that believe it’s a basic human right.

Which camp are you in?

  • Published in Features

Taking On The Tuck: City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau Clashes With Fox News Anchor

City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau appeared on Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight last week to defend a measure he voted on for the city to recognize Indigenous People's Day on the second Monday of October, replacing Columbus Day.

Immediately Carlson, who’s developed a reputation for vilifying progressive movements ever since he took the prime time Fox news spot from Bill O'Reilly, conflated the municipal recognition of Indigenous People’s day with an attempt at offering an alternate history. He introduced Thibodeau by connecting his measure — which was initially brought forth by fellow Councilor Pious Ali — to a national “battle to cleanse history.”

“It sounds like the city council of Portland is sending the message it would have been better if the Europeans hadn’t come to America in the first place and that's why they are eliminating Columbus Day,” said Carlson during the start of the interview.

Thibodeau patiently explained that the history of Christopher Columbus is inexorably tied to the history of Indigenous peoples (specifically the ones living in the areas Columbus conquered and pillaged) and that the city of Portland didn’t vote to overthrow a federally recognized holiday (it couldn’t even if its voters wanted to) but instead simply voted to recognize Indigenous People’s Day, a holiday within an entire month dedicated to honoring Italian Americans.

“This allows people to recognize the holiday as they see fit,” said Thibodeau. “And I think it was a reasonable proposal that the council took up.”

Pivoting, Carlson then challenged Thibodeau to name some Indian tribes living in Maine, to which he responded with two — Wabanaki and Penobscot — before Carlson cut him off again.

Carlson’s last argument in the lively six-minute exchange with Thibodeau was a baffling example of “whataboutism” in which he suggested that Portland’s famous for “junkies” overdosing on opiates and that because Portland’s grappling with an opioid crisis, city councilors shouldn’t have “wasted time on symbolic stuff."

“Presumably, there are American Indians in Portland you could be helping but you guys spent a ton of time on this,” said Carlson. “There are also a lot of heroin addicts right downtown in Portland in case you haven’t noticed. For the council to spend any time at all on this nonsense when your city has become famous for people overdosing on opiates, it’s like, where are your priorities?”

Here was Thibodeau’s astute reply: “Our city is famous for lobster and Longfellow. We’ve struggled as many other cities do with opioids. But let me just say, we’ve spent time on this, 40 minutes, and then we moved onto the next issue, which is what we’re supposed to do on the municipal level.”


  • Published in News

8 Days: Small Town Horrors, Uncovered Gems, and Art Dissections


BEST IN THE BIZ | A big reason why Portland — unlike some rapidly growing American cities — retains its unique and hyper-local charm, is because of the success of its small businesses. Without out them, Congress St. would likely resemble Main Street USA: a soulless strip packed with chain restaurants, big box stores, and corporate kitsch. Today Portland honors its vibrant independent business community at the annual Indie Biz Awards. Although we all have our own ideas on which businesses are the best in town, let's gather to see who won the most votes. In addition the award show, guests will enjoy food, drinks, and live music from Saved And Sound, a duo comprised of Portland locals Monique Gaudet and Dave Jacquet.

| $5 | 6:00 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | |


2 + 2 = 5 | Do you really understand the similarities between today’s political climate and the themes present in George Orwell’s dystopian fiction 1984, or do you like to just gab about it to sound smart? If you never read 1984 (or didn't pay attention in high school) I recommend you revisit this classic — it’s a short, thrilling read, and the parallels to today (from mass surveillance and alternative facts to thought-crimes and an overbearing government) are quite striking. Armed with a refresher, attend this special screening of the film starring John Hurt and Richard Burton, and then stick around for a discussion on both the book and movie with Jason Read, the chair of Philosophy at the University of Southern Maine. Tell me, is there anything more exciting than literary analysis in our postmodern world?

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


8days MuddyRuckus PhotoByMichaelLowe

Muddy Ruckus. Photo By: Michael Lowe

STOMP YER FEET | Devot some precious minutes this evening to welcome power duo Hymn for Her during their first trip to Portland, and save some energy for the amount of jumping they'll inevitably convince you to take part in; these two don’t play for wallflowers. Hymn for Her has been touring across the country with their juiced-up blend of backwoods country-folk and desert psychedelia and finally decided that Maine needed a taste. I don’t know about you, but any band that’s described as “Hell’s Angels meets the Amish” immediately piques my interest. Joining these two on their hayride to hell is Muddy Ruckus, Portland’s rootsy Americana duo — they’ve got a rad new EP out called Awakening Enkindled, check it out on Spotify.

| $8 | 9:00 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | |



DREAMS OR NIGHTMARES | Take a risk on the unluckiest day of the year and sample these three bands performing tonight at Blue: the transcendent indie-folk band Olive Tiger, the graveyard bluesters of Fat Knuckle Freddy, and fiery Latin jazz group El Malo. Tonight’s not the night to stay at home (and watch Jason movies).

| DONATION BASED | 6:00 pm | Blue, 650 Congress St., Portland | |

 8days Foundfootagefestival

FOR THE CURIOUS | Chances are, you haven’t touched a VHS tape in years, let alone watched one; they're relics of a bygone era now! A massive amount of strange media from those times is undoubtedly archived somewhere online, but not everything is saved. Currently, the only way to watch something as obscure as an 80s law enforcement guide to Satanic cults, or bloopers from a small town North Dakotan news station is at the Found Footage Festival, a delightfully bizarre showcase of videos from a different time. See this. 

| $12 | 7:00 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | |


SHHHHH! | Back in the days of silent cinema films would play in tandem with a live orchestra in an attempt to provide the sound effects and emotional resonance. Tonight the Art Department and Listen UP music aim to recreate that strange magic with a showing of their own original silent film with a synchronized soundtrack. The topic of the night’s entertainment is a big secret!

| $8 | 7:00 pm | Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland | |


DARK CINEMA | Can you believe an eighth Saw movie is in the works? Is it just me or are studios unaware of when to respectfully end a franchise? Here’s my prediction: the film’s commercial and critical success is relying on the popularity of its titular character Jigsaw, but instead will likely just be a 2-hour snooze fest, filled with cheesy jump scares and copious amounts of gore. Good horror sneaks under your skin and plagues your thoughts long after the credits roll. It shouldn’t be predictable. Maybe indie filmmakers that aren’t beholden to soulless cash grabs can conjure up the kind of deep frights seasoned horror fans crave. If that sounds like you, get your ass to Damnationland 2017, which opened up its lineup this year for international films for the first time ever, meaning this roster of shorts will be all over the map thematically. If our feature on page TK didn’t convince you this year’s fest is a scary go time, then I’m afraid you can’t be helped; go enjoy Jigsaw instead you freak.

| $15 | 7:45 pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | |



HIDDEN GEM? | Ya know, I used to think Portland couldn’t sustain any more coffee shops, yet another one opens its doors to the public for the first time today on Wharf Street. Folks over at the new cafe Higher Grounds welcomes the community to preview their shiny space, and sample some of their potent brews and artisanal treats. (It’s still far too early to tell whether this place will be a local hotspot or a tourist magnet.) People who drop in will be offered a discounted ticket to Higher Grounds’ dance party featuring mosart212 and Jasen Loveland that will commence later in the evening at Maine Craft Distilling.

| FREE | 8:00 am to 6:00 pm | Higher Grounds, 45 Wharf St., Portland | |


HOW TO DEAL WITH DEATH | October seems an appropriate time for such morbid thoughts, so I’m compelled to ask readers: do you know why we wear black at funerals? Or how about this one: why are we buried in wooden caskets anyway? Most of our mourning practices trace back to the 19th century, and most of us continue them without really knowing why. Professor Libby Bischof from the University of Southern Maine will host a fascinating lecture on why we demonstrate grief the way that we do. Bring some weird questions.

| $10 | 1:30 pm | Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress St., Portland | |


PUFF, PASS, LEARN | God knows when, but eventually, Maine’s recreational marijuana market will open up with government approved regulation. But if you’re itching to launch your own cannabis business, there’s a lot you need to know first. Soak up that necessary knowledge today, and sip on some marijuana-infused coffee at the one and only 3rd Annual New England Cannabis Convention. And yes, you’re allowed to bring and exchange cannabis at the event! We’ve got details on page TK.

| $20 | 10:00 am to 4:00 pm | Portland Sports Complex, 512 Warren Ave., Portland | |



SLICE A FACE | You know what makes pumpkin carving about 60 percent more interesting? When you add craft beer and turn it into a competition. Some determined folks will team up and speed carve some pumpkins and after one hour you’ll get to judge which one’s the most grotesque. In the past, this AIGA Maine event’s proved to be hilarious and fun. Recommended.

| FREE |1:00 pm to 4:00 pm | Foundation Brewing, 1 Industrial Way, Portland | |


DRAWING WITH LIGHT | Any hobby photographers out there? If you habitually like to take “slice of life” shots, head to Deering Oaks Park for what could be a good photo opportunity — if Instagram influencers are any reliable judge of aesthetic quality, that is. Tonight marks the 3rd Annual Portland Lantern Walk, and I imagine with the diffused light of a setting sun, leaves on the ground, and lanterns floating above a line of Portlanders, it could make for some conventional lovely, atmospheric snapshots.

| FREE | 5:00 pm | Deering Oaks Park, Portland | |


SILENT READING PARTY | Reading is typically a solitary affair, but if you’re the type that prefers to be seen with a book, head to Tandem for a silent reading party. Other bookworms will be there too and together you can sneer at the simple fools that consider mindlessly scrolling online newsfeeds as their “reading for the day.” Keep up, screen zombies.

| FREE | 2:00 pm | Tandem Coffee, 742 Congress St., Portland | |


8days PinkMartini

PARTY IN STYLE | This Monday doesn’t have to be drab and boring like the all the rest. Especially when Portland’s lovely songstress Viva and her eight-piece ensemble The Reinforcements are playing a short set at Aura tonight, kicking off a classy night of elegant tunes, sexy dance numbers, and magical connections. Viva’s particularly excited for this show because she’s opening for Pink Martini, a globetrotting 12-piece act that melds a bunch of sophisticated, stylish, period genres together (in multiple languages) — they've served as the leading inspiration for her musical focus in Latin dance and jazz.  

| $30 | 6:30 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland | |




TEXTUAL EMBERS | A rotating lineup of poets and writers take the stage upstairs at Bull Feeney’s every Tuesday for the Port Veritas series, weekly nights of storytelling somewhere on the idea spectrum between silly nonsense and deep revelations. This week, it’s veteran poet Tony Brown’s turn to show you where he finds meaning in a logo-centric world. Visit his blog Dark Matter for a preview of what’s in his head. You’ve been warned.

| $5 | 7:30 pm | Bull Feeney’s, 375 Fore St., Portland | |


KILLING TIME | As cogs in the giant capitalist machine, subconsciously we’re always chasing a sweet deal. Here’s a free tip on a good one: a three-band show for a three dollar cover with three dollar beers at the bar. Can’t beat that. This week’s edition of Empire’s cheap-easy night features Boston’s Best Not Broken, the bluesy rock trio of Bees Deluxe, and Portland’s melody-driven Xander Nelson.

| $3 | 9:00 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | |



COLLABORATION HUB | You should meet some of the people that work at Portland’s fairly new (it only opened this summer) Immigrant Welcome Center. The folks using that space aren’t just interesting and kind, they also might be able to help you or your neighbor. They connect Portland’s immigrant community with organizations, businesses, and people so they can best pursue whatever short or long-term goal lies ahead of them, whether it be learning a language, getting into school or finding a job. It’s only natural that 2 Degrees Portland linked up with them, as their mission is very similar. Tonight the two organizations will gather for a meet and greet, and you’re invited. (There’s free food, too.)

| FREE | 5:30 pm | The Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, 24 Preble St., Portland | |


CHOICES | Although abortion is legal in the U.S., the fervor of the “pro-life” movement — especially in Trump’s America — can’t be understated. (A bill banning abortions after 20 weeks just passed the House and is likely to pass the Senate too.) While third wave feminism and solid journalism have done a lot to elucidate these attacks on a woman’s right to choose, some would say they haven’t done much to shed light on how these political and social battles over abortion affect women in minority and/or impoverished communities. How hard is it, for example, for a low-income earning black woman to get an abortion in the red state of Mississippi? A film titled Jackson follows Shannon Brewer who owns the only abortion clinic in the state and the lives of three young women of color. Jackson’s an emotional heavy journey, but one that’s definitely worth taking. It’s screening tonight at SPACE thanks to an effort from the ACLU of Maine and Planned Parenthood, organizations that mobilize on a daily basis around intersectional issues like this.

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


8days DianeCluck photoByDerrickBelcham

Diane Cluck. Photo By: Derrick Belcham

CHORDS OF MAGIC | Simply put, Diane Cluck has one of the most interesting and unique voices amongst vocalists today. Her fluttery pitch, haunting beauty, and arresting style are unmistakably hers, and it’s an enchanting experience every time she visits Portland. Don’t miss this semi-rare chance to hear a poet in full control of her intense voice. Joining Cluck tonight are musicians Sam Moss and Jerusha Robinson.

| $10 | 8:00 pm | The Apohadian Theatre, 107 Hanover St., Portland | |



AROUND THE CORNER | Next week we’ll check in with the critically acclaimed “theatre rock star” Leslie Odom Jr. (he’ll be at Merrill for what’s expected to be a musically vibrant lesson in suaveness), the Apohadion Theatre for details on “an introspective dance party” (whatever that means), the historic Eastern Cemetery for rumors about “ghostly storytellers,” and Mayo Street Arts for a night they’ve dubbed “a hot evening in Hell.” And that’s all just in one evening; Portland knows how to keep its restless busy.


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