Monday, May 29, 2006

Munjoy Hill to Hold Annual Meeting

The Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization is holding its 2006 Annual Meeting and Election on Monday, June 12th 7-9 PM at the East End Community School.

Special Activities include “Mapping Urban Trails” led by Jaimie Parker of Portland Trails, and a historical talk about the East End Cemetery by Christina White of Portland Landmarks.

The meeting is open to the public; everyone is invited. Refreshments, desserts, and live music will be provided. A SPECIAL TOUR OF THE EAST END COMMUNITY SCHOOL will be given at 6 PM.

Friday, May 26, 2006

War Protestors Signing up New Recruits

Organizers of the weekly anti-war protest on the Casco Bay Bridge (Sundays from 12-1 at the South Portland end) are looking for an infusion of new signs and people committed to bringing awareness of the war in Iraq to the public. Some of the founders of the event have been on the bridge every week for two years.

There is parking at Shaw's Plaza or behind Yankee Ford.

If you want to do something besides yell at your TV and absorb the constant negativity of the administration, this offers a constructive outlet that gets the message out and allows you to connect with some great people.
Volunteer for Big Day in the West End
Planners are working hard to make the West End's first annual Healthy Community Day (Saturday, June 3) a success. Volunteers are needed in many areas throughout the day. If you can help at any time, would you please let us know as noted below. Thanks so much!

Neighborhood Clean Up - Gather at Reiche at 8 a.m. for coffee, juice and bagels, then work with a team to clean up a designated neighborhood site. We'll have some gloves and tools on hand but please bring your own as well, if you have them. Please let Leana Good-Simpson dewin271@yahoo.com and/or Dave Marshall dave@damfineart.com know if you can help.
Games, 3-on-3 basketball tournament, soccer, swimming, food, prizes, etc., are scheduled at Reiche throughout the day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Volunteers are needed to help with set up, games, lunch, clean up, etc. If you can help at any time during the day, would you please contact John Navarra jnavarra@portlandwest.org (phone: 775-0105).

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Survey Under Way on Affordable Home Ownership

Muskie student Elizabeth Trice is doing research on the possibility of increasing affordable homeownership opportunities in Greater Portland. If you are interested in purchasing a place to live in the next three years, regardless of whether you think you can afford it, please take this survey; it takes about five minutes and you can enter to win a $50 gift certificate to a local bike shop.

www.smarthousesurvey.com


Also, please pass this on to anyone who you think would be interested in purchasing a home or condo in the next three years.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Robber Hits East End Rite Aid

The Rite Aid at 290 Congress Street in the city’s East End was robbed by a lone male on Monday, May 22, at 2:20 P.M.. The man handed a threatening note to the pharmacist demanding oxycontin, according to police. The note indicated the man was armed, although no weapon was seen. The perpetrator was given an undetermined amount of prescription drugs. He fled on foot and was last seen on Federal Street at the rear of the store. There were several customers and employees in the store at the time of the robbery, however no one was injured.

The perpetrator is described as a white male in his twenties, with a shaved head, and a tattoo on the right side of his neck. He was wearing a baseball cap and dark jacket with vertical red stripes on the left breast. Police released a store surveillance photo of the man.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Portland Police at 874-8533 or 874-8479.
League Plans to Make Election Day Party Time
Putting the ‘Party’ Back in Politics, The League plans to throw a Primary Day Party on June 13th

The League has announced that on June 13th, it will host a Primary Day Celebration from 3-7 PM near the Reiche School and Community Center in the West End. 'The Party at the Polls' is a nonpartisan gathering meant to celebrate our community and democracy, according to Justin Alfond, State Director for the League.

"The League wants to recapture the festive election-day atmosphere that prevailed in America during much of the 19th century," said Alfond. The Party at the Polls will have free food, drinks, raffle items, entertainment and games to celebrate voters.

For more information about the League please visit www.portlandme.indyvoter.org or call 772-3207.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Dem Corps Announces Scholarship for Civic-Minded Students

Donkey Card, and Dem Corps, a new non-profit organization, announced on May 16th the formation of the Dem Corp Civic Leadership Scholarship. The scholarship will be awarded each year to students who demonstrate a commitment to their community through their volunteer efforts and civic activity.

This scholarship fund is made possible by a $1000 donation from Donkey Card, which brokers discounts for southern Maine families on heating oil as well as other products and services. Donkey Card has enrolled enough people this year to make this initial gift and enable Dem Corps, the group’s sister organization, to realize part of its mission – creating the scholarship fund for students graduating high school.

Dem Corps will also be supporting local Democrats in their volunteer efforts - from gathering non-perishables for food banks to helping winterize the homes of the elderly.

Donkey Card’s heating oil program succeeded last year in securing home heating oil at prepaid prices of $1.83 per gallon for their participants. This has prompted the group to expand their coverage to now include York, Cumberland, Kennebec, Sagadahoc, and Androscoggin Counties. In addition to heating oil, Donkey Card also offers other products and services at a discounted rate. These offers range from real estate transactions to car oil changes, screen printing, counseling and carpentry.

The closing date for people to enroll in the oil program is June 1st. For more information about Donkey Card, LLC or Dem Corps, you can go to their websites: www.donkeycard.com and www.DemCorps.org or call 207-650-9873.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Greens Dump State Leaders
Maine’s Green Independent Party began its annual party convention with a bang on May 19th by voting to replace the entire state party leadership with a complete new slate of officers. Three prominent Portland Greens were elected to take the party in a new direction, on the second day of the two-day convention. Neighborhood activist and former City Council candidate Carol Schiller, and party strategist Ben Chipman are now part of the 5-member state committee, which also includes former gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Carter. Portland Green Party Chair Kevin Donoghue was elected a national representative.

There are twelve announced Green candidates in the state this year – all of them in Cumberland County. Six Greens are elected officials in the City of Portland – four school board members, one member of the Portland Water Board, and West End state legislator John Eder.

Green Independent Party gubernatorial candidate Pat LaMarche addressed about 40 Greens at the convention on May 20th, delivering a critical ‘State of the State’ address in which she touched on such topics as health care, education, energy, and the economy.
Officials Try to Clear Up Confusion at Portland Connector
City and state transportation officials have agreed to make a number of changes around the Portland Connector to make it safer and more navigable to motorists. Most of the changes will involve adding or relocating signage at the newly-opened roadway which connects I-95 to the City’s waterfront.

All signs referring to Mercy Hospital will be removed until the hospital is in operation at its new site on the Fore River. Also, a sign barring trucks from using the Danforth Street exit will be relocated so that truck drivers can see it in time before they make that turn.

At a May 16th meeting, West End resident Anne Pringle expressed concerns about ‘sign pollution’ infecting the area, which she referred to as a gateway to the city. Brush and vegetation will also be removed from some locations to improve drivers’ visibility.

Friday, May 19, 2006

South Portland Democratic Committee Resolution Calls For Bush/Cheney Impeachment

The South Portland Democratic City Committee has passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney.

The impeachment resolution urges members of Congress to hold the President and Vice-President accountable for their actions, by taking all necessary steps to ensure a complete investigation into abuses of power, and carrying the legal process through to its conclusion in an act of impeachment. The Committee cites a wide range of unlawful acts, and also charges that Bush and Cheney have betrayed their oaths to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and of committing high crimes and misdemeanors warranting impeachment.

The document calls on Democratic City Committee Chair Richard Rottkov to sign a copy of the resolution and send it directly to the United States Congress. The Committee will also share the resolution with other Democratic Party organizations.

Rottkov called the resolution ‘a statement of conscience’ and said that the committee doesn’t expect a Republican-controlled Congress to consider Articles of Impeachment - no matter how great the merits of the resolution may be. He said that it was time for the committee, and patriotic Americans everywhere, to take a stand against Bush and Cheney’s ‘flagrant abuse of power.’

Thursday, May 18, 2006

USM GRADUATE TO JOIN METROPOLITAN OPERA

Ashley Emerson, a Bangor native who graduated from the University of Southern Maine’s School of Music on May 13th has been selected to join New York City’s Metropolitan Opera in its Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Emerson is one of only 12 singers from across the country who have been invited to join the prestigious Lindemann Program this year.
Emerson received a degree in vocal performance from USM.
The program identifies and educates gifted young American singers for careers in opera. It provides up to three years of specialized training in music, language, and dramatic coaching from The Met’s own artistic staff and invited master teachers. Participants are given performance opportunities at The Met as well as other opera companies throughout the country. Singers in the program are also sent to Europe for intensive language study.
Portland West looking for Youth Program Candidates

Portland West is accepting applications for its next Youth Building Alternatives Program class, which will begin in early July. Candidates for the program must fulfill the following criteria:

· 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, obtain an application, or want more information. Email kmoore@portlandwest.org or tkane@portlandwest.org. The next class will begin in October 2006.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Eder Bill Becomes Law

New law requiring landlords to disclose a rental unit’s energy efficiency to prospective tenants goes into effect


A new law sponsored by West End Representative John Eder requiring landlords to present prospective tenants with a disclosure form revealing a rental unit’s energy efficiency has gone into effect. The law requires landlords to fill out the form, make it available to the rental housing consumer, and post it in a visible place in the apartment for rent. Upon signing the lease, the prospective tenant must sign that they read the form.

The forms are now available to landlords and property managers for download on the Public Utilities Commission website. The forms provide easy to understand information describing in simple terms whether or not a rental unit meets minimum energy efficiency standards, and also apprise the renter of an existing law that allows a prospective tenant to contact the utility to find out how much it cost to heat the unit in the previous twelve months.

Portland has some of the oldest housing stock in the country, and many of its rental buildings are uninsulated. Eder says that every winter he gets calls from tenants who are shocked by the cost of their heating bills. The original legislation would have required all rental units in the state be made to be energy-efficient. The disclosure form approach was the result of a compromise between those representing tenants, the environment and landlords.

Among the groups who worked for the bill’s passage was The League of Young Voters, who were invited by the Legislature’s Utilities and Energy Committee to be among the stakeholders who worked out the final language of the law.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Path to Replace Valley Street Stairs

The steps leading from the Western Prom to Valley Street will be replaced by a paved path, according to City officials. The cost of replacing the steps - estimated at up to $180,000 - was a major factor in the decision to replace the steps, which had deteriorated beyond repair.

Although the path will not be officially handicap accessible, it will be more accessible to a wide variety of people who use the route as an entry to and exit from the West End. They include residents grocery-shopping on St. John Street, residents with baby carriages, employees of the Maine Medical Center, bicyclists and recreational users. The cost of the new pathway will be covered by federal Housing Community Development funds and money provided by the Maine Medical Center as part of their expansion agreement with the City. The pathway is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.

Suspect Arrested in Coffee Shop Robbery

Portland police officers arrested Jeffrey Rice, 37, of Limington on May 15th, on charges related to the robbery of a coffee shop on Warren Avenue. Rice was being sought by detectives and was arrested on Cumberland Avenue after patrol officers spotted his car.

Rice is accused of robbing the Bellingham Coffee Company at 529 Warren Avenue on Saturday, May 13. The lone female clerk on duty reported at 5:45 P.M. that a man began banging on the back door of the shop. The victim moved to a secluded part of the small shop to hide. The man then climbed through the drive-through window and pointed a handgun at her, demanding cash. He stole money from the cash register and safe before leaving through the rear door and fleeing in a car parked in the lot. The clerk was not injured

Rice is charged with armed robbery and burglary - both Class A crimes, punishable by imprisonment for up to 30 years. He is currently being held without bail at the Cumberland County Jail.

York County Disaster Relief Effort Begins

United Way is accepting financial donations for the York County Disaster Relief Fund to help people in York County who have been affected by the recent flooding. Money collected will be distributed to appropriate organizations over the next few months, based on people’s needs. Anyone looking to contribute to the immediate emergency efforts should donate directly to the American Red Cross of Southern Maine.

Anyone with non-monetary items or services to offer please click here. The fund is meant to help people put their lives back together over the next several weeks and months when the flooding is over.

To make a special gift to the York County Disaster Relief Fund, you may send checks to:
United Way of York County/YC Disaster Relief FundPO Box 727, Kennebunk, ME 04043-0727
Credit card donations (Mastercard and Visa) can be made by calling (207) 985-3359.
Car Wash Held Up on Forest Avenue

Portland police have reported that a lone male entered the Scrub-A-Dub Car Wash at 1185 Forest Avenue on Monday, May 15 at 9 P.M. and threatened a female clerk with a knife, demanding money. The clerk handed over a small amount of cash and the perpetrator fled on foot and was last seen crossing Forest Avenue. There were no customers or other employees in the store at the time and no one was injured. The South Portland Police assisted by sending a police canine to attempt a track of the perpetrator, but no suspects were located.

The perpetrator is described as being a white male, between 25 and 30 years old, about 5’09” tall and weighing about 180 pounds. He has short brown hair, a mustache and goatee. A store surveillance photo was distributed to news outlets. Anyone with information is asked to call the Portland Police Detective Division at 874-8533.

Monday, May 15, 2006

St. Dominic’s Bell Cuts Loose

The 5,000 pound bell in the tower of the St. Dominic’s Church at the corner of Gray and High Street – currently the Maine Irish Heritage Center – fell from the top of the tower into the church’s basement on May 13th. The Portland Fire Department cordoned off the area around the church and temporarily evacuated adjacent apartment buildings.
Cracks are visible in the brick at the top of the tower, however, structural engineers examined the structure and declared it safe.

Adams Letter Queries Maine Phone Companies on Secret Government Leaks

Parkside State Representative Herb Adams has submitted a letter to the Maine heads of Verizon and AT&T in response to reports that the companies are among the phone companies that have released the phone records of some 200 million Americans to the federal government.


Adams’s letter asked the companies whether the records of Maine consumers were released; whether the companies were compensated for releasing the information; who consumers could contact within the organizations to find out if their records were released; and where they should direct complaints.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Governor signs bill to protect private cell records

AUGUSTA – Governor John Baldacci signed a bill into law on May 9th that will protect the private records and data of cell phone users, by making it illegal for data brokers to sell the information in Maine.

State Rep. John Brautigam, D-Falmouth, introduced the bill because there is no provision in federal law preventing the sale of private records and personal data from cell phones. Land-line records are already protected under federal law.

Brautigam was one of the first legislators in the country to work to close the legal loophole that allows companies that acquire private cell phone records to sell them over the internet.
Unscrupulous dealers charge about $100 for a month’s worth of the records of virtually any cell phone user. Disgruntled spouses and partners, suspicious employers who think their employees may be seeking new jobs, or businesspeople trying to get a leg up on their competition can easily purchase the records and use them against unsuspecting victims.

Brautigam’s legislation is being used as a model for other states, and was recognized by representatives from Sprint/Nextel as one of the best consumer protection laws nationwide to address the loophole.

Along with call records, the bill also protects any information stored on consumers’ phones from being sold. Brautigam said that companies can install new “spyware” technology on cell phones that allows them to recover anything loaded onto the phone – including photos, stored phone numbers and text-messages – and sell them along with call records.

The bill passed in the Legislature as emergency legislation, allowing the new law to take effect immediately.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mob Rule or Home Rule?
Local legislators go head to head on proposal to limit citizen input.
Portland City Councilor Ed Suslovic is taking an opposing position from most other City Councilors and local State Legislators on a bill in the State Legislature that would restrict the action that can be taken by citizens once a development project is underway.

Suslovic, who as a State Representative sponsored LD 389 -a similar bill - two years ago, has been lobbying for passage of LD 1481. The Portland City Council issued a proclamation in opposition to the bill in February, with Suslovic being the only Councilor favoring the proposal.

Suslovic says that the bill does a good job of respecting citizens’ rights while encouraging prospective, rather than reactive planning. He said that it is ‘disingenuous’ for opponents of the bill to claim that citizens would have only 75 days to stop an unwanted project through a referendum project, because most large development projects take a full 12 months to get through the review process.

However, Parkside State Representative Herb Adams called the bill a ‘developer’s dream’ and a ‘citizen’s nightmare’. He said the bill would make it impossible for municipalities to do long-range planning because of its restrictions on changing permits once they are granted. West End Representative John Eder called it a ‘bad bill.’

The State Legislature is expected to take a final vote on the proposal in the last week in May.
Bloggers Bring New Dimension to Local Political Scene

Comments by Portland School Committee member Stephen Spring on his web log became the topic of a Portland City Council workshop on May 8th when City Councilor Jill Duson asked if the School Committee members who voted against the School Committee budget had issued a ‘minority report’. (Four Green Party members on the officially non-partisan School Committee had voted against the school budget in a 5-4 vote.)

School Committee Chair Ellen Alcorn told the City Council that there was no consensus among the dissenters as to their reasons for voting against the budget, and so a ‘minority report’ was not possible.

Spring and several Green Independent Party members who are running for local office recently started their own web logs to get their views into the open. Portland Green Party Chair Kevin Donoghue is using his blog (kevindonoghue.blogspot.com) to promote his campaign against District 1 City Councilor Will Gorham. Other Green Party candidates with web logs include David Marshall (District 2 City Council) and Kevin Gardella (at-large School Committee).
Duson said that she thought it was ‘odd’ for a public official to put his views on a blog instead of bringing it before the official body. Spring, however, has said that there is no forum for the minority on the School Committee to express its views, hence his comments independent of the board.

Spring has proposed several ideas on his blog (www.springcares.blogspot.com.) to cut the school budget and save energy as well. (See below.)
School to Benefit from New School Funding Formula
Portland Legislative Delegation describes change in school funding formula - allowing pay down of East End School debt service.

The Portland legislative delegation announced on May 9th that the state will pay $363,261 this year on interest and principal for the construction of the East End School. The $360 thousand in funds is the first installment over a 20 year period by the state to help Portland residents pay down more than $9 million dollars in debt service for the new construction costs of the East End/Jack Elementary School.

The financial support by the state is the direct result of the new Essential Programs and Services (EPS) school funding formula. Under the old formula, Portland would have received no state support for the East End project, and Portland tax payers would have paid most of the construction costs for the East End School.

The new EPS formula was passed by the legislature this past legislative session as part of the education and tax reform bill LD 1. In addition to the East End School, the Nathan Clifford School will also benefit from the change.

“This is the first time in recent history that Portland will get money for new school construction,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael Brennan (D-Portland).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Eder, Hinck Face Off in First Campaign Battle of the Season

Although they agreed on almost every issue raised during a candidate forum sponsored by The League at Reiche School on May 9th, West End State Representative John Eder and challenger Jon Hinck exchanged angry charges and denials regarding what may be the most important issue – perhaps the only issue in the campaign – the viability of having a third party to promote progressive ideas in the State Legislature.

Eder, the only elected Green Party state legislator in the country, took great exception when Hinck accused him of not doing anything when Democrats nearly lost an important committee chair to a conservative Republican in the last session. Eder denied the charge, saying that he had nothing to do with the committee in question and said that the Democratic leadership considered him to be part of the working majority. He said that he voted his conscience and that he was a Green - not a Democrat who had become an independent.

After Eder said that there should be more political parties and that the two-party system has failed, Hinck described how radically different Portland politics are from the rest of the state, and how Republicans vote against every progressive measure. He then said that he didn’t think that third parties were the answer – that they tear down the better parts of the other two parties.
Aside from that major difference, the two candidates agreed on issues ranging from citizen referendums to toxic waste disposal to single-payer healthcare to immigrant voting rights. At the end of the 40-minute session, the two candidates hugged each other and started distributing their first wave of campaign literature.

Monday, May 08, 2006

LaMarche Wins League’s ‘Dating Game’

Green Party gubernatorial candidate Patricia LaMarche beat out opponents Peter Mills, Davy Jones and Christopher Miller at the The League’s “ReEmergence” event on May 6th, making her its choice as The League’s 2006 political prom queen.. The League event included music, dancing and a Gubernatorial Candidates Forum staged as a political version of “The Dating Game”.

The questions posed by voters ranged from political to personal to serious to social:
- Are you pro-choice or pro-life?
- What are you listening to on your CD player right now?
- Do you believe there should be equal benefits and wages in the workplace?
- How do you believe we should take on the burning issues of construction debris and the environment?

The candidates were concealed behind a privacy screen - allowing for anonymity – and placing the focus on the depth and substance of the answers, as opposed to the personality and verve of the individual candidates. By a show of audience applause, the winning “date” was chosen.

The League made a point of stating that the results were not an official endorsement, despite the applause LaMarche received from the youthful crowd. LaMarche received a bouquet of red tulips and box of chocolates for her victory.
“Now that our mutual affection is a matter of public record, I look forward to my next date with them on November 7th,” she concluded.
Eder, Hinck to Face Off at Forum

West End State Representative John Eder and Jon Hinck, the Democratic challenger for the District 118 State Legislature seat, will appear at a public forum sponsored by the League of Young Voters on Tuesday, May 9th at 6:30 PM at the Reiche School (166 Brackett Street).

The forum, which is also a potluck supper event, is part of the League’s 'Getting to know our civil servant candidates way before the election' campaign. Please contact Claire Howard with any questions at 772-3207 or claire@indyvoter.org.
East End School to Open on Friday
New elementary facility will feature a live green roof.

Local city and school officials will gather with parents and students for the opening of the new East End Community School (195 North Street) on Friday, May 12, 2 p.m. The ceremony and ribbon-cutting will take place in the gymnasium at the school.

The $12 million project began in November of 2004, and will besubstantially completed this month. The school includes 24 general-purpose classrooms, 6 exploration rooms, dedicated art and music classrooms, community meeting rooms and a family resource room. The new East End School will welcome 425 Portland students in September of this year.

The new school is a registered LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) Project and will include a "green roof" that is currently being grown in Ontario, Canada. The 1,800 square footgreen roof will be comprised of a drought-resistant plant called Sedum -requiring low maintenance and possessing natural cooling capabilities.Funding for the green roof was made possible by a grant from the CascoBay Estuary Partnership.

The new school also received 20 new photovoltaic (PV panels) that will allow the building to produce approximately 3.2 kilowatt hours ofelectricity. These panels should be installed later this summer.

Students from Adams School in Portland have worked closely with TV3(Portland's educational access station) to document the building of thenew East End Community School. The video includes interviews with thefirst graduating class at the old Jack Elementary School from 1946, thegroundbreaking ceremony for the new East End School in October of 2004,and interviews with the project managers and architects of the new school. The public will be able to view the video during the opening event. Staff will be available at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, May 12 to conduct tours of the building with local media.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

School Board Member Wants to Cut Budget and Save Energy
Spring brainstorms about shorter vacations, later starting times, and charging for yellow buses.

West End School Committee member Stephen Spring has proposed several ideas to cut the school budget and save energy as well. The ideas were published recently on Spring’s web blog www.springcares.blogspot.com. Among Spring’s ideas are:

-Releasing one Assistant Superintendent, one high school administrator and one elementary school administrator. This would clip about $250,000 from the school budget, which he says is oversubscribed with administrators at all levels.

-Accelerate consolidation work with the City Council in the areas of maintenance, transportation, payroll, etc., but only if the City negotiates so that employees from both sides are treated well and fairly. This could save up to a half million dollars, though the savings may take a half decade to be realized.
-Create a City of Portland League for middle school athletics, instead of having students competing and taking buses all over Southern Maine. With three middle schools, leagues could be formed with sixth, seventh, and eighth graders - enough for a competitive league. Spring says that such an arrangement could save as much as $175,000. He suggests that METRO could move sports kids from Lincoln to King to Lyman Moore, but would need to make some route changes to make this possible.
-Introduce a fee for riding yellow buses since METRO will be letting students in grades 6-12 ride METRO for free starting in September. Spring proposes charging high school students $20 a month, but only if METRO keeps providing its free service. Over time, fewer and fewer high school students would ride yellow buses and would learn to negotiate the city bus system.

Spring also has some ideas on how the school department can become more efficient and environmentally-friendly, cutting down on global warming while paying attention to educational research. He suggests starting high school later because it's much warmer at 3:30 in the afternoon than it is at 7:30 in the morning, which will cut down on the burning of fossil fuels. According to Spring, research shows that high school students learn better when they’re not forced to solve logarithmic equations at 8 AM.

Spring also proposes closing school during the coldest month of the year -- probably from mid-January until President's Day, cutting out the February and April vacations, and shortening summer on either end by a week. Studies show that shortening summer break has positive effects on literacy for elementary students, according to Spring, and closes achievement gaps between those who read at home and those who don't.

Spring stressed that his ideas do not represent the thinking of either the school finance committee (on which he serves) or the School Committee.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mayor Appoints Hinck to Task Force

Portland Mayor James Cohen has appointed Jon Hinck, who will run against West End State Representative John Eder for the Maine Legislature in November, to the Mayor’s Sustainable Portland Task Force. Hinck is former staff attorney for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

The task force will be co-chaired by at-large City Councilor Jill Duson and former Portland Mayor and City Councilor Nathan Smith.

Other members of the task force are:
-Brent Bridges, engineer, Woodard & Curran. Vice-president, Portland Trails.
-Gunnar Hubbard, architect, Fore Solutions
-David Littell, Commissioner, Maine DEP
-Frederic “Mac” McCabe, President and Owner, O’ Naturals.
-Martha Sheils, Environmental Economics and Policy Management
-Travis Wagner, Professor of Environmental Sciences, University of Southern Maine

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Volunteers Unhappy, But Will Work With City Council

Members of the City Manager’s Policy Advisory Committee (CMPAC) are unhappy with the way their efforts were dismissed by the Portland City Council at a March 27th meeting where the Council overrode the volunteer board’s recommendations and made an across-the-board cut of federal funds to social service programs in the city.

At an April 28th meeting, members of the committee agreed to pursue a strategy of meeting individually with members of City Council committees to try to keep City Councilors updated on CMPAC’s work and the reasons for its recommendations.

CMPAC meets weekly for six months to evaluate applications for over $2 million in federal funding of social service programs and infrastructure improvements. Due to a cut in those funds, the City Council ignored the board’s specific recommendations and cut about 4% from all social service programs that had been funded last year, and declined to fund any new programs.

West End Neighborhood Association representative Patrick Baldwin said that he thought WENA would have a hard time sending a representative to the board if nothing changed next year. At WENA’s April 12th meeting, Baldwin complained about the City Council’s actions. City Councilor Karen Geraghty defended her vote and expressed support for Portland West, which had been recommended for major program cuts by CMPAC.

Wanted: King and Queen

Southern Maine Pride has announced that applications for the 2006 Royal Court are now available to all interested community members. Each year Southern Maine Pride holds an annual event to crown the King and Queen of Southern Maine Pride and are looking for two individuals to serve as representatives of the GLBTQIA Community.

This is more than a drag competition, according to Pride officials. Men can be Kings or "Queens" and Ladies can be Queens or "Kings". Persons of all gender and sexual orientations are welcome to apply. Applications and more information about the competition process are available on the Southern Maine Pride website at www.southernmainepride.org.

METRO To Let Students Ride Free
City bus company recoils on earlier rejection of consolidation plan.

Beginning in September, all students in grades 6-12 in both Portland and Westbrook will be given free access to METRO for a four month period. During that time, data will be gathered on usage, and students will be able to provide feedback to policymakers.

West End School Board member Stephen Spring had been promoting a plan to offer passes to only high school students, which he was hoping to see implemented this past January. Spring was one of six elected officials of the joint finance committees of the City Council and the School Committee who met in the Fall of 2005 to create a list of consolidation recommendations to save money for the City.

The original plan was to give students free passes to use METRO on a voluntary basis to get to and from Portland High, Deering High or PATHS. During the rest of this academic year, youth were going to test the system, gather data, and advise METRO on how it could tweak its routes and schedules. On February 23rd, school and METRO staff came back to the school committee recommending that consolidation not be implemented for a number of reasons.

However, Spring insisted that joint committee's plan was misunderstood by METRO and school staff members, and continued to push the consolidation plan, which was adopted by the school committee last month.
Officials to Discuss Problems With West End Connector Road


City officials will hold a public meeting at the METRO Offices, 114 Valley Street, on May 16th 6 PM, to discuss problems with the lane markings, signage and traffic lights at the new I-295 connector, which was designed in part to take traffic off some of the residential streets in Portland.
The November 2005 opening of the connector marked the completion of a first-of-its-kind highway project. The $25-million connector, which links the Outer Congress Street exit of Interstate 295 with West Commercial Street and the waterfront, is Maine’s first highway project to be constructed using the design-build process which enables the Maine Department of Transportation and its contractors to complete projects in less time and with greater flexibility than with the traditional highway project delivery system.
Construction of the connector included replacement of a traffic circle with an at-grade intersection and construction of a one-mile span of highway with three bridges along Fore River.
In addition, the project provided more than a mile of pedestrian and bicycle trails between the Portland Transportation Center (train and bus station) and Commercial Street. The Connector trail is also the center of Portland Trails’ Fore River Trail—a vital part of its network connecting the Fore and Stroudwater River trails to Portland’s Old Port.