Tuesday, February 28, 2006

City Council Asks School Task Force for Clarity and Transparency
The Portland City Council wants the Portland School Committee’s Elementary Facilities Task Force (EFTF) to clarify to them and to the public exactly what is the committee’s charge and how they plan to go about fulfilling it.
At a meeting on February 27th that Mayor James Cohen labeled a ‘Winter Summit’, the City Council, the School Committee, and members of the Task Force discussed where the Task Force was at, where it had been, and where it was going.
Councilor Nick Mavodones asked for a timeline for the Task Force’s work and an explanation of what the charge of the group is.
School Superintendent Mary Jo O’Connor explained that the EFTF’s job was to use a 2002 Elementary Facilities report as a working document, taking into account financial constraints, enrollment trends and educational factors, to make recommendations as to what the City’s future school system should look like.
Task Force Chair Jason Toothaker said that his group was looking at the 2002 report and had been gathering information since November.
Councilor Ed Suslovic, who is also a member of the Task Force, charged that “a lot of misinformation has been out there,” referring to news reports that he had advocated the closing of the Reiche School in the West End. Suslovic said that he was not advocating any one scenario and that the Task Force had not pre-judged or come to any conclusions about which schools might be closed. He said that “the public is confused on the criteria” which, he said, doesn’t build confidence and causes a “sense of urgency.”
Councilor Donna Carr, also a Task Force member, agreed with Suslovic that the group had made no decisions and that she was “startled to see what I’ve seen in the paper.”
West End Councilor Karen Geraghty, however, defended the accuracy of press reports, saying that they were accurate when compared to the Task Force minutes that she read. Geraghty had been surprised to learn late in January that the Reiche School, which is in her district, was being considered as a possibility for closing. She said that hundreds of her constituents were interested in what the Task Force was doing, but that it had no clarity and she had even been encouraged by some to ‘end the process.’ She said that the group ‘sounds like they know what they’re doing and what they have to do.’
Geraghty pointed out that $650 thousand has been spent on improving the Reiche campus and there were plans to do another $325 thousand in improvements starting this month. She said that a lot hinges on the work of the Task Force and she would like to see a report from them sooner rather than later. In December, Suslovic had advised a West End group that is working on a Community Design Workshop for Reiche to hold off on their work until the Task Force made its recommendations.
Suslovic also said that the Task Force wanted better data on whether closing schools was actually cost-effective. He also wanted to know how the process that is now being followed is any different than what was done before.
The Task Force was scheduled to meet again on March 1st.

Friday, February 24, 2006

DA Drops Rape Charges

Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson said sexual assault charges were dropped on February 17th against Jonathan Santos, 19, and Michael James Coleman, 21, both of Manchester, New Hampshire, and a 17-year old Florida youth. The three men were accused of raping a 19-year old woman on St. John Street on August 10th but prosecutors dropped the charges after finding problems with the accusations made by the woman.

The woman told police at the time that she was approached near the Key Bank at St. John and Congress Street at about 1AM and asked for a cigarette, and then pulled behind the bank and sexually assaulted multiple times.
The woman was able to give a detailed description of the three men to police, who used tracking dogs to lead them to them.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Shawn Loura to Run for Governor
Portland resident Shawn Loura has announced that he will run for Governor of the State of Maine as an independent candidate with a very low-budget campaign and without seeking taxpayer money.
Loura says that his campaign will run on small donations, with no special interest or corporate funds whatsoever. He says that he will run a strictly constitutional campaign and his views can be seen in both the Constitution Party and Commonwealth Party's platforms.
Loura listed the following priorities in his campaign announcement:
-fair tax
-private schools
-constitutional enterprise
-constitutional government (a republic as opposed to a democracy)
-government accountability
-no government handouts to social, corporate or foreign aid.
-private funding with accountability
-family values
-law enforcement dedicated to protecting lives and constitutional law
-prison reform and accountability
For more information on Loura’s campaign, contact: shawn_loura@yahoo.com

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Stolen Guitar Returned to Local Musician
1972 Les Paul Gold Top Was Stolen From Vehicle in Old Port

Matthew Robbins of King Memphis has had his prized 1972 Les Paul Gold Top guitar returned to him by an anonymous Portland business, after the guitar had been stolen two weeks ago. The guitar was taken from Robbins’ vehicle in the Old Port.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Reiche School to Hold Community Meeting
Reiche Community School students, parents, teachers and staff are planning a community event on Tuesday, February 28 at 6:30 p.m. for West End parents and their children to learn more about the school. Portland Superintendent Mary Jo O'Connor will join a panel of parents, students and staff sharing information and answering questions. An opportunity to tour the school and view student work will follow the meeting. Light snacks and childcare will be provided. For more information, contact Reiche Principal Marcia Gendron at 874-8175 or gendrm@portlandschools.org.
About 65 people attended a forum to discuss the future of the Reiche School and Community Center at the school on Thursday, February, 16th. The forum was organized by West End School Committee member Stephen Spring.
Spring convened the forum to clarify the process being followed by the Elementary Facilities Task Force and to address the issue of school consolidation.
Jo Coyne of the West End Neighborhood Association talked about that group’s organizing a Community Design Workshop to design a master plan for the school and community center. That project is currently on hold until the future plans for Reiche are more definite.
Several of those in attendance spoke of Reiche’s origins and thirty-year history in the West End. There was also discussion about the ‘open design’ which has been brought up as one of the school’s educational shortcomings.
The Portland City Council and the Task Force will hold a joint meeting on February 27th to further discuss the City’s school consolidation plan.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Landlords Oppose License Fee
Ed Democracy from the Portland Tenants' Union discussed a proposal before the Portland City Council to charge a licensing fee to landlords, in order to fund apartment inspections throughout the city, at the February 8th West End Neighborhood Association meeting.
Carlton Winslow from the Maine Association of Apartment Owners & Managers expressed opposition to the plan, calling for a mediation board to resolve tenant-landlord disputes. He said he opposed the plan but supported building inspections.
Attendees also received a six-question survey from two groups - Medical Care Development, and Portland's Division of Public Health, to develop a 5 year strategic plan for substance abuse prevention in the community.
MPA: Anthem Discourages Dirigo Enrollment

The Maine People’s Alliance is charging that Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maine discourages potential subscribers to the state’s DirigoChoice insurance plan.
MPA conducted a study of what was happening when potential enrollees called Anthem to inquire about the DirigoChoice plan. Between November 10, 2005 and January 28, 2006, thirty-seven volunteers made calls to Anthem producers across the state to request information about the DirigoChoice plan. Based on those calls, the following results were obtained:
-One in three producers (33%) were reported to be not enthusiastic at all. when asked about the DirigoChoice plan.
-Less than half of producers (45%) were reported to be very accommodating over the course of the inquiry.
-Forty-percent of the producers called attempted to dissuade callers from enrolling in the DirigoChoice plan.
-More than half of callers (52%) were not informed that they might qualify for discounts on the initial premium and deductible quote they were given.
-Twelve percent of the producers called actually made negative comments about the DirigoChoice plan or its likelihood of succeeding.
-Despite having inquired about the DirigoChoice plan, 1 in 5 callers (20%) were offered a competing plan without necessarily being offered an explanation of differences in coverage or cost.
MPA says that the results of this study raise concerns that Anthem has failed to represent the DirigoChoice product enthusiastically or accurately.
As of February 1, 2006, 9,270 Maine people have enrolled in the DirigoChoice plan.
Babin Will Oppose Strimling Again
Republican David Babin has announced that he will again run for the Maine State Senate’s District 8 seat against incumbent State Senator Ethan Strimling. Babin ran against Strimling in 2004.
Babin 50, was born and raised on Munjoy Hill and lives with his partner on Cumberland Avenue in the East Bayside section of the city. He is employed by Goodwill as the manager of group homes for people recovering from brain injuries.
Babin is a conservative who plans to focus on the issues of state government spending and high taxes, as well as affordable health insurance. He is a supporter of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) which would put a cap on spending. He is opposed to the Dirigo health plan and to a single payer system. He is running as a Clean Election candidate.
Wednesday, February 22 Eder to Host Anti-War Film
West End Representative John Eder and Maine Veterans for Peace will hold a public screening of the film Uncovered: The Whole Truth About The Iraq War at the Reiche School on Wednesday, February 22nd at 7pm.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Legislature to Consider Two New Ethics Bills
Bills would disclose more information on lobbying activities to the public
AUGUSTA – The Maine Legislature will soon take a vote on two new ethics bills sponsored by Representative Marilyn Canavan, D-Waterville. The two lobbying disclosure bills seek to shed light on lobbying activities and give lawmakers, the media, and the public more information about political lobbying in Maine.
Canavan’s first bill would create an online register that would list the names of lobbyists, the organizations they represent, and the subjects of bills in which they have an interest. Canavan’s bill is modeled after a similar online lobbying register now used by the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. The Wisconsin Ethics Board’s register may be viewed online at: www.ethics.state.wi.us.
Currently, the Maine Ethics Commission produces only a paper register.
LD 1822: An Act To Require the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices To Produce A Register of All Registered Lobbyists, would dramatically increase the information that is readily available to the public.
Canavan’s second bill would require lobbyists to report on their activities when lobbying state agencies. Currently, lobbyists are required to report activity dealing with the Legislature and the Governor’s Office directly, but not any other executive branch office or department.
The last major changes in Maine’s Lobbyist Disclosure Laws were made in 1976. Thirty-eight states currently have some form of reporting and regulation dealing with executive branch lobbying activities. Both of Canavan’s bills were voted out of the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee on February 15th.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Inside/Outside City Hall
School Committee Cracks Down on Member Dissent

‘No Surprise Rule’ among new restrictions.


The Portland School Committee at its January 11th workshop meeting ‘adopted by consensus’ norms for the School Committee members to follow in their work. “Norms” doesn’t refer to the crazy postal carrier of the 80s sitcom Cheers, but rather is newspeak for the new rules the Committee members will be expected to adhere to.
It is against the law for municipal committees to make decisions in workshops – even by consensus. The School Committee is well aware of this. I personally reminded them at their first meeting of the year, when the Chair reported that they had decided upon the Superintendent’s salary prior to the meeting. It is very distressing that at their very next meeting, they violated the state law so blatantly by making a decision outside of their regular business meeting.
The “norms” that they “adopted” include a “no surprise rule”. This rule requires School Committee members to notify the Chair if they intend to disagree with a position taken in a workshop or other place, on matters that have been previously discussed. Members are also supposed to send any questions they have to the Chair in advance of the meeting. The only point of such rules would be to stifle public discussion and to showcase a united School Committee that only has good things to say about the Portland educational system.
Other “norms” adopted by the Committee include:
- Do not to discuss with the media such things as student discipline matters, personnel, or labor negotiations.
- Use press releases more frequently to celebrate accomplishments.
- Use emails for logistical and organizational purposes only. Be aware that they could be public record.
- Pay attention to the presenter/ speaker during meetings.
- Keep questions fact-based.
- Come to meetings prepared.
The School Committee Chair Ellen Alcorn noted that the “norms” were going be printed on placemats that would be placed on members’ desks to remind them they are to work in lockstep with the party line.

Ed Suslovic Gets it Right
The Portland City Council, while claiming to be pro-housing development, again showed its true colors in being pro - status quo and anti-development. They took up a resolution on February 6th opposing a legislative bill that would protect developers who have started the review process. That bill, LD 1481, would still give a City Council 30 days to nullify a planning board or planning authority decision, but that is not good enough. The Portland City Council wants to hold a club over all developers- that is, except one councilor- Ed Suslovic. (Folks who read last issue’s column may be shocked that I am coming to Ed’s defense. On this issue he is correct.)
As Suslovic pointed out, municipalities need to do planning looking out the front windshield, not the rearview mirror. That is what this bill does - even leaving the side view mirror in place with the 30-day provision.
This resolution was dropped into the Council’s agenda - without warning to the public - with a memo from the Corporation Council that the Maine Municipal Association had sent out urgent notices that this bill had passed through its committee on an 11 to 2 ‘ought to pass’ vote. The two ‘no’ votes were Portland legislator Charles Harlow and Lewiston’s Peggy Rotundo. The mere fact that the MMA is against this should be a red flag that it is a good thing for the people of Maine.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Read the Latest
West End NEWS
-On the Street-
Wednesday, February 15th
PHS Students Document Downtown Jaywalkers

Students of Portland High School’s school redesign class have begun taking pictures of various jaywalkers in downtown Portland, in rebuttal to the recent "bad press" PHS students received in the daily press. Students say they are not above the law, but as long as they are under it, so is the rest of the community. They say that students at PHS are not the only jaywalkers, and that the businessmen and women walking casually across the street whenever they please can pay the $138 fine for jaywalking a lot easier than a student can.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Portland Cop Indicted in Head-Butting Incident
Portland police officer Cong Van Nguyen was indicted on February 10th on a misdemeanor assault charge that he head-butted a Portland man during an altercation on Congress Street last summer.
Nguyen is on paid leave from the Department, which also conducted an internal investigation into the incident. Witnesses said that Nguyen confronted Peter Colthart, 27, in front of Paul’s Market, after Colthart walked in front of his police cruiser at Congress Street and Forest Avenue.
Colthart, 27, was arrested recently and charged with assault, reckless conduct and terrorizing after he allegedly shoved Portland rescue workers and threw hot coffee at one of them. He was also convicted last summer of trespassing at a 2004 rally in Auburn which featured an appearance by First Lady Laura Bush.

Friday, February 10, 2006

CMPAC: No Money for Window Replacements Neighborhood Organizations recommended for full funding.
The City Manager’s Policy Advisory Committee took its final vote on February 10th on recommendations to the City Manager of how the City should disperse over $2 million in federal funding for social service needs and infrastructure improvements.
Among the recommendations the committee made at its final meeting was to deny a request by Portland West for $50,775 to replace 32 windows in rental properties the organization owns in the West End. While some members simply opposed using the federal funding for window replacements, others questioned the price of the windows, and the fact that only one bid was sought for the job. The group also recommended turning down a $50,000 window replacement request from the YWCA.
The group recommended fully funding a $20,000 request from the City Parks Department for tree planting, as well as fully funding the Bayside Neighborhood Association ($13,000) and the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization.($10,500).
The committee, which has been meeting weekly since October, will present all its recommendations to the City Manager, along with a letter explaining some of its decisions. The City Manager will then make recommendations to the City Council, who will vote on the disbursements in March.
Suslovic: Save Clifford!
State considers school ‘not viable.’
After strong opposition emerged to his proposal to close the Reiche Elementary School and combine its student population with that of Clifford Elementary School, Portland City Councilor Ed Suslovic has raised the possibility of renovating the Clifford School instead of closing it.
But at a meeting of the parents’ group ‘Building Bridges’, held at the Presumpscot School on February 9th, School Superintendent Mary Jo O’Connor said that state officials said in 2004 that they would not renovate the Clifford School. She had previously said that the state considered Clifford ‘not a viable school.’ Suslovic, however, says that the state’s evaluation process has not been completed and that the closing of the Clifford School is not a certainty. Suslovic did not attend the February 9th meeting.
The Presumpscot School in East Deering is one of the schools being considered for closing along with Clifford. The Portland City Council plans a hearing on February 27th to discuss the entire school consolidation issue.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Youth Building Alternatives Program Accepting Applications

The Youth Building Alternatives Program is now accepting applications for its next class, which will begin on April 24, 2006.
The program is open to young people who:
· Have dropped out of school;
· Are 16 to 24 years old;
· Want to pursue a GED;
· Would benefit from Life Skills and Leadership Training;
· Want to learn a trade or prepare for post secondary education;
· Need financial support while they attend the program.
Please call Karen Moore or Tom Kane at 775-0105 to make a referral, if you need an application, or want more information. . The next two classes will begin in July and October 2006. kmoore@portlandwest.org tkane@portlandwest.org

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

O’Connor, Geraghty Oppose Reiche Closing
“Some ideas don’t make sense – this is one of them.”
Portland School Superintendent Mary Jo O’Connor and West End City Councilor Karen Geraghty have both expressed strong opposition to a proposal by the School Committee’s Elementary School Task Force that the Reiche School be considered for closing as part of the City’s school consolidation plan.
At the Task Force’s meeting on February 8th, O’Connor said that Reiche was never on her radar for closing. She said that if the new East End School was more centrally located on the Portland peninsula, Reiche’s closing might be a consideration. But, she said, the peninsula should have schools both in the East End and the West End, despite the decrease in the number of students in the city.
Geraghty told members of the West End Neighborhood Association on the same night that the plan was “totally unsupportable and nonsensical”, that it had no support on the Portland City Council, and that it was not a good idea. “Some ideas don’t make sense – this is one of them,” said the City Councilor in whose district the school is located.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Democratic Lawmakers Make Case for State Fix

Federal Drug Plan may throw state budget off by millions

AUGUSTA—Democratic lawmakers held a press conference with Maine Senior Citizens on February 7th to highlight two key bills designed to help Maine Seniors receive the prescription drugs they need following problems that have occurred with the launch of the new federal Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
The Medicare Part D Federal Drug Plan was supposed to provide elderly seniors with low-cost prescription drugs replacing MaineCare benefits and programs like the elderly low-cost drug program. But for many, the federal plan has not worked or vital prescription drugs have not been covered by the private insurers.
The Democratic Lawmakers also pointed out that they have been told by Federal Medicare Administrators that they will likely not receive millions of dollars in reimbursements for the prescription drugs the state has been covering until after the end of the state’s fiscal year. That means the state could be short millions of dollars as it works on its final supplemental budget for the fiscal year.
Since the launch of the federal drug plan, Maine has spent between $200,000 to $500,000 a day to cover problems associated with Medicare Pt D sponsored by the federal government and national drug companies.

In related news...
More than 20 state legislators from across the country recently met at the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices Conference in New York City and voted unanimously to support a motion to urge Congress to remake the Medicare drug benefit. The proposal calls for the feds to make it simpler and have it be administered directly by the Department of Health and Human Services. The details of the legislators’ Part D replacement plan will be discussed further at its spring meeting.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Book Traders
Quality Used Books
Bought and Sold
561 Congress Street 773-1840
“A book you haven’t read, is a new book.” -Anonymous

Friday, February 03, 2006

Local Candidates Announce

Two Dems to Face Off in Primary
Winner will face Eder
Two West End Democrats are expected to face off in a June primary to determine which will run against current West End State Representative John Eder, who is the state’s only Green Party State Representative.
Jon Hinck, 51, is an environmental lawyer at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. His legislative priorities would include healthcare, environmental issues, affordable housing, and the state budget.
Hinck would face off against Robert O'Brien, 25, a graduate of Deering High School and Bates College. He is employed at Central Maine Power, and is President of the Irish American Club of Maine and was recently elected President of the West End Neighborhood Association. His principle platform is encouraging an economy within the state that can sustain the numbers of educated young people leaving every year for better opportunities.

College Republican Will Run Against Adams in Parkside
Jason Lavoie, who is Chairman of the College Republicans at the University of Southern Maine, will run against Parkside/Bayside Democratic State Representative Herb Adams in the November election. Lavoie told the Portland Republican City Committee on January 23rd that he is running for the State Legislature because he doesn’t want to have to leave the state when he graduates from college next year because of a lack of opportunities here.
Lavoie, who is a Clean Elections candidate, said that the top issues in his campaign would be taxes, health care, and the unbalanced ideological atmosphere that exists on college campuses. Lavoie had threatened to leave the University last fall if the Student Senate endorsed the statewide gay rights referendum He said he is a supporter of the Academic Bill of Rights. He expressed opposition to the Dirigo health plan which he called a “mistake by the Governor and the Legislature.” He is also for eliminating the business equipment tax and reducing the sales tax and reducing government spending.

February 3, 2006

King Memphis Lead Man's Prized Guitar Stolen
1972 Les Paul Gold Top Stolen From Vehicle In Old Port

Matthew Robbins of King Memphis has had his prized 1972 Les Paul Gold Top stolen. The guitar was taken from his vehicle in the Old Port. All residents of Portland and surrounding commun-ities are being asked to help with recovery efforts by telling friends and spreading news of this theft. If enough people are aware, the likelihood of it being recovered increases.
Description: 1972 Les Paul Gold Top (see photo) Original black Gibson case. Original owners manual in the case pocket. (including receipt from 1975)2 Seymour Duncan P-90's, and replacement tuners (original style, pearloid with chrome).
Distinguishing feature: small, round white plastic cover in between the volume and tone knobs. SERIAL# is 966218-U. If anyone has information they should contact the Portland Police Department at 874-8300, Report #06-1202 (Burglary to Motorvehicle, Theft). Additional guitar photographs are available at

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Two West End Women Stop Assault at CVS Pharmacy
Two women who live in the West End stopped an assault and apprehended the assailant on January 7th at the CVS Pharmacy at the Westgate Shopping Center on Outer Congress Street.
According to Christine McHale, she and her friend Bevinn O’Brien were waiting at the checkout line when a young man came running into the store, grabbed one of the women behind the counter, and started dragging her across the floor. O’Brien grabbed the man’s arm and pulled it behind his back, while McHale charged the man with her shoulder and drove him into a corner, and held him down until police arrived about ten minutes later. Both women are in their fifties.
McHale said that no one else in the store took any action, despite her yelling for someone to call the police, which someone finally did.
Police arrested Moses Bobo, 22, and charged him with assault. The victim was his sister.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade Extended into West End
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which has wound through the West End since the 1970’s, will continue the local tradition since organizers of the event agreed to extend the parade past its previously-planned ending at Gorham’s Corners.
The parade route was changed this year so that it will start at India and Commercial Street, go up Commercial Street to Center Street, and end with a rally at Gorham’s Corners.
There will now be a continued procession after the rally which will go along Danforth Street to Tyng Street and down to Harorview Park. There will be another ceremony at Harborview Park, where a flag that was put up on St. Patrick’s morning will be lowered. The parade will be held on Saturday, March 18th. Further details about the parade will be carried in future issues of the West End NEWS.

Bill Would Safeguard Students' Info

Parkside State Representative Herb Adams is a co-sponsor of a bill LD 1876, "An Act to Inform Parents of Students' Privacy Rights," that would make it easier for parents to stop military and college recruiters from getting the names, addresses and home phone numbers of high school students.
Adams said that the bill has nothing to do with recruiting policy, but has to do with privacy policy. The Portland School Committee this school year included an opt-out form on their emergency contact sheet, which goes home to parents at the start of the school year, informing them that they have the right to opt out of a federal requirement that high schools provide names, addresses and phone numbers of all students to the military and colleges as required by the No Child Left Behind Act.
Maine National Guard Colonel Peter Golding told the Morning Sentinel "I urge you to be cautious of the connotations going out if you sign on to this legislation. The alternative to an all-volunteer force is an all-nonvolunteer force."

H.S. Students Urged to “GET ON THE BUS!”
New initiative proposes free METRO passes.
A joint finance committees of the City Council and the Portland School Committee is promoting a plan that calls for high school students in the city to use public transportation rather than yellow buses to get to and from school, starting in September.
Objectives of the initiative include consolidation of municipal services to provide the best public services at the lowest price. The plan calls for providing free bus passes to high school students. The committee estimates that the move could save $400,000 a year.
The committee originally proposed to phase from yellow school buses to city buses beginning in September, and to issue free METRO passes to high school students at the end of this month, but that plan has not yet been initiated.

New Insurance Law Would Help Legal Immigrants
“As incredible as it may seem, it is now impossible for legal immigrants to qualify to buy a health insurance plan in Maine,” said Representative Kevin Glynn, a Republican from South Portland whose bill, LD 1734, makes it possible for legal immigrants to buy health insurance in Maine.
“The problem began 14 years ago, when Maine installed a guaranteed issue mandate on insurance,” says Glynn. “They feared that people would flock here for insurance when they could not get it anywhere else, so they made the requirements very stringent – so stringent that they precluded any immigrant from meeting the qualifications.”
Glynn said that the victimized group consists of legal immigrants who have been streaming to Maine in recent years from Somalia, Uganda and other African countries, as well as from China and elsewhere. Maine is believed to be the only state in the nation to prohibit immigrants from buying health insurance.
LD 1734 amends Maine law to make it easier for immigrants to prove that they live in Maine - and plan to stay in Maine. It expands the criteria for eligibility to purchase health insurance coverage to include a valid passport or visa, a sworn affidavit declaring a person’s intent to reside in this state, and a state identification card, in lieu of a driver’s license.
The IFS Committee was scheduled to take up the bill again at a work session on January 31st. Glynn has attached an emergency preamble to the bill, so it could take effect as soon as it passes, and not in late summer, as would the case with normal legislation.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The West End NEWS: January 2006

The West End NEWS: February 1, 2006



The Portland City Council will hold a workshop at the end of February to review the work of the Elementary Schools Task Force, which has been working since early December on proposals that include closing the Reiche Elementary School and busing Reiche School students to a newly-built school on Douglas Street in Libbytown, about one and-a-half-miles from the current West End elementary school.
West End City Councilor Karen Geraghty told West End activists that the Reiche School would not be closed because it is an ‘anchor school’. But Task Force members dismissed that designation as being outdated and no longer applicable. Geraghty did not learn of the task force’s latest proposal until late January, six weeks after Task Force member Ed Suslovic advised members of a Community Design Workshop to hold off on holding a collaborative workshop which would develop a master plan for Reiche Community Center. The West End Neighborhood Association temporarily suspended all planning activities for the Community Design Workshop that had been tentatively scheduled for early March. WENA is sponsoring the workshop based upon the needs and priorities of neighborhood residents and other stakeholders. Planners decided to await the report of the Elementary Schools Task Force on possible school consolidation before moving forward, but have since decided to move ahead with planning the workshop. The Task Force report is expected in March or April. The workshop is expected to take place in May or June.

At the Task Force meeting on January 25th, the Reiche School was one of two schools chosen in a straw poll of the panel’s members as the best candidates for closing. The Presumpscot School was the first choice of the panel. The Clifford School has already been designated by state officials as not a viable school and one that cannot be renovated. Task Force Chair Jason Toothaker has consistently described the group as an advisory board to the School Committee, and described their discussions as being in the very early stages. The Task Force was organized by School Committee member and former Chair Jonathan Radtke.
The Reiche School was described at the January 25th meeting as ‘educationally not working’ because of its open layout. Reiche is currently listed 23rd on a state list of schools that would receive state funding.
Suslovic told the Task Force on January 11th that maintaining the Reiche School in the West End would provide an inequitable education to the area children. (See related stories.) The committee was reviewing six potential reconfiguration scenarios. A seventh scenario, which called for not building any new schools, was rejected by the committee.
Two School Board members, Stephen Spring and Ben Meiklejohn, raised concerns at the board’s January 25th meeting that Reiche was being tossed around as an option and demanded a cleaner and more transparent process. The minutes of all Task Force meetings will now be made public and sent to every school committee member. The School Committee and Task Force will operate with the current plan mentioned in the November 2002 report, which calls for a re-evaluation of the situation before moving ahead. The next slated "bundle" in the report asks that the School Committee renovate, not close Reiche. The status of Reiche will change if the School Committee decides to deviate from its original plan, which has not happened, according to Spring. The Task Force’s next meeting is at 4PM on February 8th at Room 340, at PATHS.