News Briefs: No deportation for Ali, Portland gets official safe spaces, gripes over Bayside, and climate change threatens lobster

Hundreds of tourists, vendors, and locals descended on downtown Portland last Sunday enduring packed streets and oppressive heat during the 44th annual "Old Port Festival." Francis Flisiuk Hundreds of tourists, vendors, and locals descended on downtown Portland last Sunday enduring packed streets and oppressive heat during the 44th annual "Old Port Festival."

Judge posts $9,000 bail for permanent resident threatened with deportation

After sitting in a New Hampshire jail for weeks, uncertain whether he’d be deported back to famine-stricken Somalia, Portland resident Abdi Ali received the first bit of good news after a court appearance on June 1: he may get to go home to his wife in Portland, Maine.

Judge Mario Sturla said in a bail hearing in Boston that Ali would be released after a bail of $9,000 is paid. 

Ali, a legal permanent resident, was arrested by ICE agents last April in what’s widely believed as Maine’s first immigration arrest in a courthouse. Ali was in court over an OUI charge. Ali has a history of misdemeanors and petty crimes, but many in Portland decried his initial arrest as a byproduct of the Trump administration's overly aggressive crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

“Lurking at courthouses to arrest immigrants, is shortsighted and not the best way to implement immigration laws,” wrote city councilor Pious Ali back in April. “Acts like this will negatively affect the relationship between local law enforcement and the immigrant community and are not in the best interest of our community and city.” 

According to stats published by the Washington Post, arrests by immigration officials rose 32.6 percent in just the first few weeks of 2017. Arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record doubled.

In a phone interview with the Bangor Daily News from jail, Ali said that he’s grateful the system has given him another chance because going back to Somalia is simply not an option for him. After living stateside since 1996, Ali considers himself an American.

Ali’s wife, Melissa Hair, has been amplifying this story by sharing it on social media and asking for the community’s help. Until bail is paid, Ali will sit in jail. Raising $9,000 for bail, and the additional $4,500 for lawyers fees is a hardship for Hair, and she’s looking to raise $10,000 through a GoFundMe page titled Keep Abdi Ali Home.  

Some Portland businesses get designated as “safe spaces”

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Laura Ker posing with one of her Safe Space Portland signs, designed by Jennifer Muller. Photo courtesy of @SafeSpacePortland on Instagram

In the wake of last year’s election, several “resistance efforts” popped up locally, some with the explicit intention of making marginalized communities feel more safe and comfortable in a political climate clouded with xenophobia.

One of those efforts is Safe Space Portland, which officially hit the streets last week. Laura Ker, the founder, and several volunteers distributed special designations to four Portland businesses: Hustle and Flow dance and yoga studio; restaurant Local Sprouts Cooperative; Arcadia National Bar; and Find, a vintage clothing store.

“The purpose of Safe Space Portland is for business owners and staff to have the tools and confidence to address [problematic] behaviors in safe and productive ways,” said Ker.

Other businesses have expressed interest in the signage, but would have to undergo the same training workshop from Prevention Action Change (a local coalition offering classes to counter assault, harrasement, and abuse) as the first four did. They include forthcoming Vietnamese restaurant Cong Tu Bot; fiber arts studio PortFiber; vintage clothing and art shop Ferdinand; underthings parlor Etain Boutique; and workout center Optimal Self. 

Dave Aceto, co-owner of Arcadia National Bar, is proud to share that his video game bar is a safe space. He said that after tears were shed post-election, there was a need to take a public stance against the hateful rhetoric hurled at marginalized people and train his staff to be welcoming to everybody, but also be prepared to de-escalate aggressors, or just kick them out of the bar altogether. 

“You should not have to give up your right to be safe just because you're at a bar, and we're happy to remind people that alcohol doesn't give you the right to be a bigot,” said Aceto. “We recognize it's difficult to speak up or to say 'no' to people sometimes and the training puts us in a better position to do both.”

Participating members of Safe Space Portland have a manifesto posted on the walls of their business, part of which reads: “This is one of many Portland area businesses that will not accept behavior that is hateful or oppressive. We say NO to violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, ableism and other prejudiced behaviors.” 

“It would be naive of us to say that any business is 100 percent safe,” said Ker. “Of course, we will have to address problematic speech and behavior. We want marginalized people to know that when they walk in our business we care about them, and we will make it a high priority that they feel safe and respected.”

Some people hate the color of Bayside’s new energy efficient apartments

news baysideAnchorBayside Anchor is already filled with residents, charging them $540 for an efficiency to $1,041 for a two-bedroom.

Avesta Housing and the Portland Housing Authority just unveiled their new 45 unit, energy efficient apartment complex in Bayside. But although we live in a time where Portland’s attempting to curb its carbon emissions, and grapple with the housing crunch, the project wasn't universally welcomed in town. The problem? Some locals consider it a big eyesore. 

A sampling of comments underneath Facebook posts about the apartment complex included criticisms like: “Why, oh why must it be so hideous? It's the color of green mold.” “It looks like zip board with painters tape trim.” And “Can Portland fire the architect behind that eyesore?”

The four-story building features 45 affordable (for families earning $23,000 and $49,000 a year),energy-efficient apartments, solar panels on the roof, and a bright green paint finish. Although many have lauded the efforts of Avesta Housing and the Portland Housing Authority — who teamed up for the development to “revitalize the neighborhood" — others are griping that the construction team took the phrase “go green” a little too literally.

Sara Olson, the communications manager at Avesta Housing, explained that the color was proposed by Kaplan Thompson Architects, the designers of the building, and was inspired by the foliage along the Franklin Arterial.

“We worked closely with the neighbors and East Bayside Neighborhood Organization during the design process, and were pleased that they supported this design throughout the process,” said Olson. 

Another issue the housing complex, named Bayside Anchor, has raised is that of parking spaces. According to Jay York, a photographer who lives in Bayside, the new complex was built over a 25-space parking lot, and the neighborhood in general does not have many options for street parking, forcing residents to park far away from their homes.

“Parking and views are the two topics no developer or city leader want to discuss with the public,” said York. “New housing being built without parking puts a squeeze on the availability of on-street parking. This is because the majority of people renting these new apartments still have cars. Developers claim the savings of not having to build on-site parking is reflected in lower rents. How laughable is that?” 

To the critique about parking, Olson explained that there was no need to build a parking lot for Bayside Anchor because there are options nearby and that by eliminating a dedicated lot, the complex was able to keep costs down for residents. Rents at Bayside Anchor cost $540 for an efficiency to $1,041 for a two-bedroom.


Climate change took center stage in Portland’s International Lobster Conference

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Lobster made up 73.9 percent of Maine's fishing economy in 2016, according to Maine Department of Marine Resources. 

About 200 economists, fishermen, and marine biologists from 12 countries around the world converged at the Holiday Inn in Portland last week to talk about the biggest challenges in lobster fisheries.

The conference, held every four years, invites industry experts to talk shop about lobster including the economics of fisheries, habitat degradation, invasive species, and the latest trapping technology. But this year’s conference had a main underlying theme: the effects of climate change.

Although the challenges lobster fisheries face internationally differ, climate change, according to several speakers at the conference, is one problem that’s global.

“We’re here to share our stories, and challenges, internationally,” said Richard Wahle, a marine scientist at the University of Maine, and co-chair of the conference. “It comes down to some basic science questions.”

Locally, researchers at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute found that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans. According to Andrew Pershing, the chief scientific officer at the institute, this has profound effects on native lobster populations, primarily with distribution of larvae, disease, and differences in reproduction and survival.

Basically, the Gulf of Maine is warming to that sweet spot that lobsters love, so scientists are seeing an increase in their populations. But is the lobster boom temporary? Warming waters are spurring their numbers northward, but climate change brings other challenges that are too early for scientists and fisheries to accurately interpret.

Pershing said that climate change alters not just the water's temperature, but also its salinity and pH level (due to ocean acidification, or the buildup of carbonic molecules in the water), all of which can affect lobster populations with increases in shell disease, predators like squid and sea bass, and infertility among egg-bearing females.

This unpredictability of future lobster populations could have a negative impact on fisheries here in Maine, where roughly 75 percent of the fishing economy is lobster. 

“We have a fishery here in Maine that’s highly dependent on a single species, so the fate of that species is going to determine in many ways the economics of the coast of Maine,” said Pershing. “There’s an explosion of lobster populations here in Northern New England, but at what point are we going to start to move and tip over? Are we at peak lobster, or is that a few years in the future? We’re concerned about the future of the lobster industry.”

Last modified onWednesday, 14 June 2017 12:46