News Briefs: Talking trash, fixing schools, paying panhandlers, and resisting the Supreme Court pick

Petition started to urge city council to renovate schools


Most parents in the area are well aware that the four elementary schools Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot, and Reiche, are in desperate need of an infrastructure upgrade.

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The Reiche School has seen better days...about 30 years ago.

Many have pointed out in local news articles and city council meetings that the schools have been falling into dilapidation; leaky roofs, asbestos, heating problems, and a lack of modern amenities all plague the learning centers. A major investment in the schools hasn’t been made in 25 years, and the state has rejected renovation applications three times.


Most in the city don’t disagree that the schools need repair, but the debate over how to pay for it rages forward into another year, with critics of a proposed 64 million dollar school bond citing rising property taxes and financial priorities in other public areas as chief concerns. Progressive Portland, an organization dedicated to mobilizing grassroots support for progressive issues, has started circulating a petition to urge the City Council to pass the 64 million dollar school bond and let Portland vote on the issue.


In a written statement, Progressive Portland wrote: “The schools are so old and outdated that students are taught in hallways, broom and mechanical closets, and dilapidated trailers. But the issue is not just about educating our city's children. It's also about developing our workforce, investing in our neighborhoods, broadening our tax base, and ensuring our city is a vibrant community with young families committed to helping Portland's small businesses thrive.”

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The Valentine's Day bandit left this heart at Longfellow School last month, when he should have left some classroom supplies. 

So far, many local businesses have stepped up to the plate and signed, including: Coffee By Design, Rising Tide Brewery, Zootility Tools, Local Sprouts Cooperative, Arcadia National Bar, Bonobo Pizza, The-Ink-Spot Tattoos, Vena's Fizz House, Black Cat Coffee, Jet Video, and Think Tank Coworking.


"Access to quality education is a fundamental human right and the foundation of economic, social and cultural development in our community," wrote Heather Blier from Dirigo Consulting after signing the petition. 

The final public hearing and vote on the school bond will take place on March 20, 5:30 p.m., at City Hall.


Portland considers privatizing its trash services


They used to say that there’s no partisan way to pick up the trash, but here in Portland, waste services just got political.


The City of Portland has begun accepting bids to privatize the city’s solid waste collection services. In an effort to balance budgets and cut costs, cities often consider sub-contracting out these essential public services to private businesses. According to an R.W. Beck survey conducted in 1995, about 50 percent of U.S. cities had privatized their trash services. But according to ITPI, and other local progressive groups, whether or not the city will actually save money, is debatable.


The Maine AFL-CIO, a federation of 160 local unions, opposes this measure, and wrote in a petition to the Portland City Council that privatization would result in lower wages and benefits for the workers, less accountability for residents, and less transparency for taxpayers. Some argue that privatizatized waste services are less safe, and might result in more accidents.  


If the city finds a qualified bidder with an efficient plan, privatized services could start in July, proving that not even garbage can escape the capitalist machine.


Conservative values condone bestiality, draw the line at homosexuality


Since we’ve featured news of at least two petitions in this week’s Phoenix, why not another, particularly wacky one?

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This is the future that conservatives want. 

A petition to boycott (and ban from theaters in some versions) the new Beauty and the Beast, on the grounds that it pushes a “harmful sexual agenda on children” by featuring Disney’s first gay character, has been circulating and spinning heads of liberals across the world.


Tens of thousands of people have signed the thing arguing that the movie pushes an LGBT political agenda on children by featuring a male character named Lefou, who occasionally fantasizes of giving his sidekick Gaston a smooch on the lips.


What a shocker! However, petitioners didn’t seem to exhibit any moral quandaries with the fact that the movie centers around a romantic relationship between a woman and a massive buffalo creature. Points for tolerance?


Portland might address panhandling proactively

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Most panhandlers in Portland would jump at the opportunity for a job cleaning parks, as it would be much less demoralizing than what they already do. 

Perhaps the best way to address the problem of panhandling in Portland, which some view as an eyesore on an otherwise beautiful city, is by treating panhandlers less like issues and more like human beings. One initiative aims to do that by offering them work off the street.


City officials hope to hire a team, dubbed the Portland Opportunity Crew, that puts panhandlers to work for 36 weeks, cleaning up roadsides and city parks for $10.68 an hour. A social worker will drive around in a van and offer jobs to panhandlers where they are. If accepting of the offer, the individual will be driven to the job site and get paid at the end of the day.


Not all panhandlers are homeless, and many beg because they’re unable to find work because of medical conditions or a criminal record. In an informal survey of 30 panhandlers in Portland, 85 percent of them said they’d be interested in participating.


Senator Angus King heard concerns over Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch

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At least Senator Angus King has the guts to face his consitutents, unlike some of his colleagues in Washington.

Senator Angus King did what some Republican lawmakers have been too scared (looking at you Mo Brooks) to do recently: hold a public forum event to hear an onslaught of Trump-related grievances from his constituents.


A big crowd filled the seats of an auditorium at the University of Southern Maine last week to let Senator King know that they reject President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, and asked King to vote no against his potential confirmation.


Democrats that are still reeling over Republicans blocking Obama from making his own Supreme Court appointment during his last 11 months in office, now plan to meet Gorsuch with tough questions at the upcoming Senate Hearing in Washington, and Mainers want Senator King to channel their concerns.


Although Gorsuch has impressive legal experience, progressives don’t like him because of ideological splits and conservative values (such as anti-abortion rights) that they feel threaten, among other things, women’s reproductive rights. Gorsuch also has a record of supporting corporations over workers, opposing the rights of people with disabilities, donating to anti-choice candidates, and ruling against rights for transgender people.


"Neil Gorsuch's rulings on women's access to basic health care services are extreme." said Eliza Townsend, Executive Director of the Maine Women's Lobby. "We need a Supreme Court justice who will value the American people over corporations. His record shows us that Neil Gorsuch's views are out of the mainstream."


“A rogue Supreme Court could undermine all of progress we have made on climate protection and other air and water health standards,” said Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine Chapter Director. “We are counting on Senators King and Collins to use their constitutional responsibility to prevent President Trump from placing unqualified extremists in positions of power that can affect us for decades.”



Many progressives consider thwarting Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court as the most important way to resist Trumpism right now. It all goes down on March 5, when the Senate Hearing commences. Progressives feel if they lose the Supreme Court battle, they’ll lose everything.

Last modified onThursday, 09 March 2017 14:09