In December 2001, Lance Tapley outlined then-governor Angus King's plans to fill a $244-million shortfall in the upcoming budget cycle. By January 2005, Tapley was explaining who had paid for those tax cuts and the ones that were coming in John Baldacci's proposed budget. "Who will pay?" his article asked. "The poor, the sick, the mentally handicapped, the mentally ill, and other unfortunate people, many of them children. They will pay."
In February 2006, another Tapley story explained how state officials' pandering to corporations — this time the Maine Oil Dealers Association — reduced the impact of federal dollars intended to help low-income and elderly residents afford heating oil.
And in February 2008, Tapley detailed exactly how much tax breaks were worth to various sectors of the population. In 2007, poor Mainers got tax breaks worth $157 million; regular people got $1.7 billion, rich Mainers got $808 million, and companies got $682 million. Those policies have not significantly changed since then.
Arts District angst
Many stories in the early issues examine the development of Portland's downtown Arts District, in and around Congress Street.
After attending a press conference announcing the March 2000 shut-down of the Oak Street Theater — which left Acorn Productions, Mad Horse Theatre Company, and several other performance organizations homeless — theater critic Anna Ursu asked: "[D]oes the small theater scene matter to the city? . . . [T]here surfaces an audible rumbling that perhaps those who have set up the city's Arts District in order to revitalize downtown might put their money where their kiosk is."
These days, Acorn hangs its hat at the ever-expanding Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook, and Mad Horse recently announced that it would lease the former Hutchins Elementary School in South Portland for rehearsal and administrative space. (Later in 2000, we wrote about Acorn's efforts to transform the St. Lawrence parish hall into a theater space — an endeavor that created a home for the Good Theater.)
We also documented the launch of the First Friday Artwalk in October 2000, a monthly tradition that's only grown in magnitude and popularity.
"This Friday, the city's first Artwalk offers the perfect occasion to make up for past transgressions," Jenna Russell wrote. "It starts at 5 pm, when you're ready to ditch the office, and gives you three hours to explore the arts downtown. It's a time when the galleries would normally be closed, and you would normally be at the bar with your co-workers, complaining about work." Russell highlighted several First First Friday exhibits, including Todd Webb photos at Aucocisco, installations at the Radiant Light Gallery (which was in the Congress Building) and Café Uffa (also no longer extant), three female artists displaying their work at the old Local 188, and "dream-portraits" by Rachael Eastman at the Hay Gallery.
Corrections — the department, that is
Back in March 2000, Mary Lou Wendell wrote about inmates who were "Doing Life on the Installment Plan," explaining that the Maine Department of Corrections was not doing nearly enough to rehabilitate inmates before they were released. That lead to high recidivism rates, with many ex-inmates committing more crimes and being sent back to prison. The department's answer then? Build more jails.
Not much has changed, though some very recent signs offer a tiny glimmer of hope.