About Town - November, 2007

Friday, 30 November 2007

Weekend plans?

I'm trying for a mostly handmade holiday season, as everyone probably knows already from reading my Going Green column in this week's Phoenix. Those who are less craftily inclined might be looking for something handmade -- by somebody else. For that, try MECA's Holiday Sale, taking place today, tomorrow, and Sunday at the East End Community School. The list of participating artists and vendors indicates that everything from jewelry, to sculpture, to stuffed animals, to "fairies and fairy houses" (yes please) will be on sale.

For something even more sustainable, try the Alternative Gift Market at the SMCC Campus Center on Sunday and Monday. According to the organizers: "For the price of many ordinary gifts, shoppers can provide milk and snacks to preschoolers in the Gaza Strip, help plant trees in Haiti, empower women in Malawi through micro-loans, and much more. For the cost of a pedicure, shoppers can send 110 lbs of milled rice to hungry Filipino farmers, and instead of a video game system, provide support services for an African teenager born with AIDS for one year."

11/30/2007 11:04:56 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Thursday, 29 November 2007

"Heroes" in Maine

Here's some fun trivia with which you can impress your friends while you're all gathered 'round the tube watching Heroes:

Recent episodes, purportedly taking place in Maine, have actually been filmed in Malibu, California.

To make the set more authentically "Maine-like," a Heroes producer recently called local businesswoman Beth Shissler, co-owner and operator of Sea Bags, to ask for a Sea Bags tote bag to use in the scenes. You can see the bag in the episode that will air on Monday, December 3.

(Sorry if it seems like we have Sea Bags fever, what with two blog posts about the company in as many weeks. But the truth is that we can't pass up any news that is even remotely related to Hayden Panettiere.)

11/29/2007 16:17:03 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Low-income housing money on the chopping block

Money for low-income housing nationwide is at stake in Washington right now, as Congress debates a bill that provides funding for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). President Bush has threatened to veto a bill that even in its current incarnation provides less money than what's needed.

Forty-four families in Maine stand to lose their Section 8 vouchers, according to a study released by the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (and Maine, sadly, is better off than most states -- in fact, only Delaware, New Hampshire, and Utah have smaller numbers of affected families; more than 4,000 vouchers in California are at risk).

The Portland Tenants Union will hold an informational press conference tomorrow at 10 a.m. at Franklin Towers, 211 Cumberland Ave. Several Maine housing officials are invited to the event, which organizers hope will draw the attention of Senators Snowe and Collins, whose votes could help override a presidential veto.

11/29/2007 14:54:30 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Portland School Committee recall moves forward

Well, the radical right lives on in lefty Portland - the Portland Republican City Committee has passed the first hurdle in recalling three members of the city's School Committee - Democrat Sarah Thompson, Democrat Robert O'Brien, and Green Rebecca Minnick. (The group says it wanted to recall all the committee members who voted to issue birth-control pills to middle-schoolers who need them, but city rules blocked that. Like rules ever stopped activists in the past.)

They justify their stance by, among other things, suggesting school staffers and health care workers should not take it upon themselves to care for neglected children. How else are we to interpret this sentence, from the group's press release?

"Astute school administrators and staff should be aware of parents who shun parental responsibility and report them to DHHS, or the police if necessary."

(As an aside - have you ever talked to anyone who has tried to report something to DHHS? According to several people I know, the conversation is brutally brief, with the person on the other end of the line often asking something like, "What do you want me to do about it?" That tells me we can all take comfort in the state's prompt action to protect children in danger.)

In any case, the group has succeeded in petitioning for permission to seek recall - with 550 people in support of circulating petitions to recall each committee member individually. We'll see if they can get 3000 signatures for any - or all - of the people already elected by the people of Portland.

11/28/2007 16:53:50 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

For the Bible Tells Me So

Once again, the Christian Civic League of Maine unwittingly publicizes something it wants to demonize. This time around, it's the South Portland First Congregational Church's scheduled screening of For the Bible Tells Me So, a documentary that "brilliantly reconciles homosexuality and Biblical scripture." The UCC church will show the film on Friday at 7 p.m.; in its press release, the Civic League vows to "have a presence at the showing of the film."

You can learn more about the movie here, or view the trailer:

11/28/2007 10:25:44 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

POWER for universal health care

About 20 people from Portland Organizing to Win Economic Rights (POWER) gathered in Monument Square about an hour ago to advocate for free and universal healthcare. (An hour before the end of the work day on a chilly November evening wouldn't have been my rally recommendation, but who asked me?)

At its website, POWER has a set of surveys that relate to housing, living wage, and healthcare -- if they want to get involved, citizens can share their stories there.

11/27/2007 17:17:36 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [6] |  

Bettering Greater Portland's Public Transport

Better public transportation means fewer cars on the roads, and that means less gas guzzling. So for an earnest greenie like me, this morning's regional bus transit summit, held at Portland's Ocean Terminal and attended by more than a few local and state public officials and transportation heads, was an encouraging step for Greater Portland's environmental future. Oh, and the ideas espoused there could save a busload (pardon the pun) of money too.

Governor John Baldacci was there to sign a joint resolution supporting implementation of the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation Committee (PACTS) recommendations, which stem that committee's Regional Transit Coordination Study, released in June. Some of the priority recommendations are:

-- Create a regional public transportation map and timetable. PACTS transit chair Tom Meyers, who presented the study, pointed out that a hapless traveler who wanted to get from Scarborough, to Portland, to South Portland, say, would have to tote along a whole heap of cumbersome maps. Riders would be better served -- and more likely to brave the public transport system -- if all their travel options were laid out in an easy-to-read, joint publication.

-- Conduct a regional route study that examines everything from bus stop locations, to connection/transfer schedule times, to service to Park & Ride lots.

-- Develop a regional pass system. This doesn't have to be complex and high-tech, Meyers said -- perhaps thinking of Boston's new Charlie Card system -- but would allow smoother transfers and payments around the region.

11/27/2007 11:25:44 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Monday, 26 November 2007

Unemployed and homeless

This guy was recently in Portland. Wish we'd have known -- lunch would have been on us.

11/26/2007 11:01:16 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Strimling wants to raise minimum wage

Welcome back, everyone.

In a few minutes, the state's Labor Committee will commence a public hearing on a bill that would increase Maine's mimimum wage from $7.00 to $8.40 over the next two years. State senator and congressional candidate Ethan Strimling is sponsoring the bill, and it's a move that is sure to shore up his traditional Dem base.

You can listen to the hearing here.

11/26/2007 09:55:50 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Turkey publicity - 'Birds Gone Wild'

We get some really odd things in the mail, and the holidays seem to be an excuse for every stupid idea a marketing consultant ever dreamed up to be mass-produced and mailed (at great expense, we're sure) to media outlets all over the country, in the probably-not-vain hope that a shotgun approach may result in some of this mindless, commercially raised, focus-grouped drivel being actually printed in some sort of crappy newspaper somewhere.

Here's an example, courtesy of the National Wild Turkey Federation:

This appears to be suggesting that, um, male turkeys should (and/or do!) tear off their tops and parade around forest glens all happy with themselves. Or, alternately, that turkeys are bloodthirsty creatures who attack each other and deserve to die and be eaten. We're not sure.

What we do know, though, is that this "National Wild Turkey Federation" is not too big on what we think of when we think of Wild Turkey, or even of turkeys themselves. This is a hunting group, whose material includes a document labeled "American Culture Lives Through Traditional Firearms." And we thought there was so much going for American literature, art, and music.

The CD-ROM enclosed in the above-pictured envelope includes audio you can use while hunting birds. Here's "Purr," which the material describes as "a soft, rolling call turkeys make when content. It can usually be heard by feeding birds. This is not a loud call, but is good for reassuring turkeys as they get in close to your position."

Purr.mp3 (83.27 KB)

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

11/21/2007 10:33:35 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Sea Bags

We are NOT LYING when we tell you that Sea Bags has come out with a regiftable, reuseable wine bag, just in time for the holidays.

The Portland-based company (full disclosure: we sell their wares on our auction site) hopes the accessory will "give fellow partygoers a hint about how to be more eco-aware." Plus, the To/From label in the back is a fun way to see where the bag has been, kind of like this site, which allows you to see where your dollar bills have traveled.

(P.S. We'd never lie to you; that opening declaration about lying was just an "office inside joke.")

11/20/2007 15:41:53 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Monday, 19 November 2007

Fire on Fire's aflame

In October, Chris Gray told us that local group Fire on Fire had signed a record deal with Young God Records.

Last week, buzz about the band's 5-song EP -- available at the Young Gods website and at live shows -- started spreading through Internet-land.

On Friday, Fire on Fire was a Stereogum Band to Watch.

Hooray for the locals!

(P.S. C. Gray actually introduced me to FoF this weekend. So this is all v. perfect timing.)

11/19/2007 12:29:47 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Friday, 16 November 2007

The "Bill of Wrongs"

This is the text of the "Bill of Wrongs" committed by US Rep Tom Allen, according to protestors who demonstrated in his office last Tuesday. Nobody was arrested, but one woman, who has been arrested before at Allen's office, was handcuffed, escorted out the back entrance, and then released.

This may mark a change in Allen's practice, which we have highlighted several times here in the Phoenix and at, of arresting protestors who don't leave when they're asked. (See "US Rep Allen to Protestors: Go Directly to Jail," by Jeff Inglis, October 5.) We are told that Allen's office decided not to press charges, perhaps because the DA's office has been dropping charges rather than prosecuting protestors engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience.

(For the first real use of nonviolent civil disobedience, don't look to Gandhi, who was a great man and used it well, or to Martin Luther King, who also skillfully engaged in protest, but to the Maori protestors led by Te Whiti O Rongomai O Parihaka and Tohu, in Parihaka, a village in the western part of the North Island of New Zealand.)

Anyway, we digress. On to the Bill of Wrongs:


for Congressman Tom Allen

You acknowledge that "impeachable offenses" have been committed by Bush & Cheney, but you refuse to sign on to HR 333 or to take a leadership position for impeachment.

You say "I know what my oath of office is", but you refuse to act upon your legal obligation "to protect the Constitution" from both foreign and domestic threats.

You have avoided meeting with your 1st Congressional District constituents to have open discussions about the most important issues of the decade: the Iraq war and the incompetent Bush administration.

You have chosen pragmatic politics over listening to Mainers, who care more about precedents, ethics, morality, and the multiple tragedies associated with war than they do about individuals' political careers.

You have misjudged your constituents to such a great extent that you will have only yourself to blame when you lose the 2008 Senate election.

"Dirigo" is our state motto, but wherever you think you are leading, it is not working.  Your people recognize superficiality. 
We are not with you. 



1st Congressional District Affinity Group for Impeachment
                                13 November 2007

11/16/2007 14:22:36 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Protect Vote Smart in Monument Square

Unfortunately, it's bitterly cold and raining, so it's a pretty crappy day for an outdoor demo.

Project Vote Smart is a Montana-based organization that aggregates poltiical information on its web site in order to educate voters. Right now, two guys are driving around the country in a big bus, trying to get the word out. Usually, they like to put laptops out so that passers-by can see the site for themselves; there's also a short movie, shown inside the bus, that introduces the organization to viewers. They started their non-partisan road trip in Florida last month, and they'll make it all the way to Ohio before they park the bus for the coldest part of the winter.

They'll be there til 3, if you want to brave the elements. Otherwise, it's worth checking out the site.

11/16/2007 13:17:13 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Only seven months to go!

A few notes from last night's candidate forum at the University of New England, at which the six Democratic hopefuls running to fill Tom Allen's seat answered questions from UNE's students of social work:

-- If we ever start a 1st Congressional District race drinking game, you'll definitely have to take a sip every time newcomer Stephen Meister says: "I'm not a politician, I'm a pediatrician."

-- Two sips if Mark Lawrence says: "My father was a welder."

-- "Weaning the state and the country off its dependence on foreign oil" will be a major buzzphrase during this race. In fact, Michael Brennan introduced himself with an anecdote about Ronald Reagan, solar panels, and where the country could be if we'd started major investments in renewable energy 25 years ago.

-- Lawrence and Adam Cote both specifically mentioned a national service program that would help to alleviate student loan debts.

-- Who knew that Chellie Pingree was on the Wal-Mart Watch board of directors?

-- Ethan Strimling sounds an awful lot like John Edwards (of 'Two Americas' fame) when he highlights the growing gap in this country between the rich and the poor.

Keep an eye out for the Phoenix's more in-depth overview of the field so far -- coming in an upcoming issue.

11/15/2007 10:57:07 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

headline of the day award

It's early, but I know this won't be topped.

The Headline of the Day Award goes to the Christian Civic League, which tells its readers: Collins and Michaud Out-Gay Allen and Strimling

In the piece, CCL Record writer Mike Hein takes issue with US Rep Mike Michaud's vote last week against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) because it doesn't include protections for transgendered people. (Tom Allen voted for it.)

"Out-gay-ing" Strimling is pretty hard, Hein tells us. After all: "Maine Democrat State Senator Ethan Strimling has announced earlier this year his intention to fill the Congressional seat vacated by Allen.  Strimling is viewed by many to be the most "gay-friendly" of the candidates for Congress.  He has recently called traditional marriage supporters "forces of evil" and had a "Coming Out Party" fundraiser at a homosexual bar in Ogunquit."

11/15/2007 09:36:14 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

And now, hold them accountable

The League of Young Voters endorsed six candidates for elected office this election season, and all six of them won. Last night, about 25 League members gathered for celebration, brainstorming, and vegan chili at Zero Station; they were joined by five of those six winners (only Gary Libby, who won a seat as a Water Trustee for the Portland Water District, was missing).

There'll be no resting on laurels, League state director Justin Alfond informed the victors -- now the voters will hold them accountable.

Councilors-elect John Anton, Dan Skolnik, and Jill Duson (who retained her at-large seat) talked a lot about housing -- making it affordable for young people, increasting rental options around the city, and building in a responsible, sustainable way. They also touched on transportation issues, from the pipe-dreamy (high-speed rail) to the realistic (improving biking paths). 

New at-large school committee member Kate Snyder said she wants the quality of Portland's schools not only to keep existing families in the city, but to attract new families. And Peter Eglinton, who ran unopposed this month after winning his seat in June, updated the group on the school district's financial woes, as well as the practical steps the city is taking to address those problems.

The next challenge will be to maintain not just the candidates' energy, but the voters' enthusiasm too. Alfond, half in jest, suggested that councilors and school committee members continue their neighborhood door-knocking efforts even now that election season is over -- an idea we don't think is half-bad, especially in politically disenfranchised areas.

And Snyder pointed out that political involvement is -- at least in part -- the responsibility of Portland citizens. After all, she said, a person could attend a city-related meeting almost every night of the week, if they wanted to. (We'd like to meet the person who wants to. Or maybe not.)

On that note, here's our Kate Snyder Meeting Update for the rest of this week:

Tonight, there is a Youth Advisory Committee meeting in City Council chambers at 5 p.m., and at 6 p.m., there's a Police Citizen Review Sub-Committee meeting in the Public Safety Conference Room at 109 Middle St (new D3 city councilor Skolnik should be there). This sub-committee is meant to increase public confidence in police investigations of citizen complaints.

If you care about things like what stores pop up in Portland, you could attend tomorrow's 5:30 p.m. meeting of the Task Force on Business Diversity in City Council chambers.

11/14/2007 10:34:33 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

No arrests at Allen's office

The cops told the Portland Press Herald they didn't want to "waste" time and jail space if the charges were just going to be dropped; but WGME (Channel 13) has a different take, saying US Rep Tom Allen didn't want to press charges against the protestors. (WGME wins honors for best headline: "Grandmother Handcuffed at Allen's Office" - we can't imagine Allen's too happy with that one.)

'GME also says that Allen agree to meet with the protestors in private. Maybe then they can persuade him to hold a public meeting and face his constituents, which is what they were asking him to do last night.

11/14/2007 09:16:43 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Tuesday, 13 November 2007


A group of people has gathered at US Rep Tom Allen's office in Portland (at 57 Exchange St) right now to protest in favor of impeaching President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney.

What they are asking for in the short term is for Allen to promise to hold an open meeting (here in Maine) for his constituents to tell him their opinions about impeachment and other important issues facing our country today. We're not sure how long it will take for him to give an answer, or what that answer will be.

As we have reported, Allen and his staff have a policy of arresting people who overstay their welcomes (a distinct contrast from the woman Allen is challenging in the 2008 election, Susan Collins).

If you want to get involved, swing by now - and at least protest in the street. If you're prepared to be arrested (and being arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience is, I'm told, both a moving experience and one you should be prepared - even trained - for), be sure to swing by soon: last time, the cops showed up at 5:45 pm.

Check back here for more updates, tonight and/or tomorrow.

11/13/2007 16:15:46 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

LOCAVORE is word of the year!

We're not the only ones with local food on the brain. The New Oxford American Dictionary has declared locavore the 2007 Word of the Year. "The 'locavore' movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locavores also shun supermarket offerings as an environmentally friendly measure, since shipping food over long distances often requires more fuel for transportation."

It beat out cougar and mumblecore, among other neologisms.

11/13/2007 11:46:26 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Monday, 12 November 2007

Local T-giving

It's one thing to eat your local berries for breakfast during the summer, or your preserved summer tomatoes for dinner all winter. But when it comes to the biggest food holiday of the year, are you prepared to go totally local?

A new local organization, Local Sprouts Cooperative Catering, can help. In fact, they can do all the work for you, or at least get you started. About eight people will prepare Thanksgiving feasts that can be picked up either completely cooked (all you need to do is re-heat), or partially prepared (veggies chopped, turkey dressed, you do the rest). The non-profit anticipates approximately 15 orders; they've gotten four so far (all orders must be placed by 11/16, which is this Friday). It all sounds like a yummy way to spend less time in the kitchen (if that's not your thing), while keeping your buy-local commitments.

For meat-eaters, Local Sprouts will offer:

Free Range Natural Turkey
Rich Turkey Gravy
Maine Cranberry Sauce
Vegetable and Bread Stuffing
Golden Mashed Potatoes
Squash or Harvest Vegetable Soup
Pumpkin or Apple Pie
Fresh Baked Rolls

These carnivorous orders are $18/person, with a minimum of 8 people.

And for vegetarians/vegans:

Harvest Roast: our own wheat gluten roast with a vegetable and bread stuffing
Rich Vegetable Gravy
Maine Cranberry Sauce
Golden Mashed Potatoes
Harvest Vegetable Soup
Apple Pie
Fresh Baked Rolls

These orders are $19/person, with a minimum of just 2 people.  

Pre-prepped (not cooked) orders are $15/person, with an 8-person minimum.

The gobblers are from the pasture at the New Sharon turkey farm in central Maine. The veggies are from the Freedom Farm in Freedom, Fishbowl Farm in Bowdoinham, and Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative, which distributes local produce throughout the state. Local Sprouts is even obtaining local butter and milk from Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook, flour from Aurora Mills in Aroostok County, and cranberries from Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner.

11/12/2007 10:45:54 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Wednesday, 07 November 2007

Scontras is mixed up on birth control

First Congressional District Republican candidate Dean Scontras has his medical terminology a little mixed up.

Here's the first sentence of an October 22 press release on Scontras' campaign Web site: "Dean Scontras, candidate for Maine's 1st Congressional District, issued a statement today regarding the decision by the Portland School Committee to allow the birth control pill, RU-486 (the "Morning After Pill") to be distributed to students at King Middle School without parental consent." [emphasis added]

And here's what's wrong with it:

1. The birth control pill is a medication that uses hormones to prevent ovulation, therefore preventing unwanted pregnancies. It is not RU-486. It is not emergency contraception (the morning-after pill).

2. RU-486 is the medical abortion pill, or pills, that chemically ends an existing pregnancy (an alternative to surgical abortion). It is not a birth control pill. It is not emergency contraception.

3. The morning-after pill is emergency contraception that uses hormones to prevent fertilization of an egg, or implanatation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, within five days of unprotected sex. It is not a traditional birth control method. It is not an abortion pill.

So basically, Scontras conflated three very different drugs in his press release, one of which will definitely NOT be available in schools (RU-486). All this makes his moralizing slightly less compelling, no? 

(“To have public school officials making these types decisions and cutting the parents and guardians out of the process makes this even more insidious. This is more than just an embarrassment for Maine and Portland. It appears to be part of the larger agenda by secular progressives to lower our cultural standards, and they are using our young people to do so.”

"This irresponsible action is indicative of the erosion of our cultural values. To have public schools playing a lead role in this is an outrage, and sends exactly the wrong message to our young people. Republicans need leaders who are not afraid to stand up for our core beliefs and values and I look forward to engaging these types of issues head-on during my candidacy for Congress,” concluded Scontras.) 

11/07/2007 15:07:17 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  


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Tap into the buzz in Portland, Maine. A collaboration of Portland Phoenix news staff.

Weekend plans?
"Heroes" in Maine
Low-income housing money on the chopping block
Portland School Committee recall moves forward
For the Bible Tells Me So
POWER for universal health care
Bettering Greater Portland's Public Transport
Unemployed and homeless
Strimling wants to raise minimum wage
Turkey publicity - 'Birds Gone Wild'
Sea Bags
Fire on Fire's aflame
The "Bill of Wrongs"
Protect Vote Smart in Monument Square
Only seven months to go!
headline of the day award
And now, hold them accountable
No arrests at Allen's office
LOCAVORE is word of the year!
Local T-giving
Scontras is mixed up on birth control



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