Friday, April 16, 2010

Legislature Sends Jobs Bond Questions to June Voters

The Maine Legislature has voted to send a $57.8 million jobs bond package to Maine voters. The House and Senate agreed to a bipartisan, compromise package on April 12 that is smaller than the one passed by a two-thirds majority in the House last week but, if passed by voters, will make substantial investments in Maine’s economic infrastructure and create or save thousands of jobs this construction season.
“Putting people to work was our number one goal,” said Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell. “While I would have preferred to invest $85 million and put more people to work, this package will still make it possible for thousands of Maine people to earn paychecks this summer.”
The compromise package, which was enacted by a vote of 102 to 44 in the House and 30 to 5 in the Senate, contains $24.8 million for road and bridge construction, $6.5 million for the construction of a deep-water port, $500K for the Small Harbor Improvement Program, $5 million for investments in advanced equipment for wind power at the University of Maine, and $5 million for the construction of a community-based teaching clinic operated by a college of dental medicine and for upgrades to health and dental care clinics around the state.
“This is a timely and targeted jobs package that will make key investments in our infrastructure and keep Maine people working,” said Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree. “Unemployment is too high. We need to ensure that this summer is a busy one for Maine’s construction industry. This is a package that we can afford and one that we need to send out to Maine voters.”
The package, if approved by voters, also would include funding for the preservation of several key rail lines around the state. Most notably, the package includes a plan for keeping a section of rail connecting Aroostook County to the rest of the continent operational, preserving thousands of jobs there. The original bond package included $17 million for the preservation of the Aroostook County line. The compromise package includes a proposal to fund the acquisition of the rail line with a three-pronged approach. The package would ask voters to approve $7 million in bonds, which would be matched by $7 million in state funds from the Budget Stabilization Fund and $3 million from the shippers who utilize the line.
“It is imperative that we maintain these tracks,” said Rep. Ken Theriault (D- Madawaska.) “The number of businesses, communities and people that depend on these rails for the transport of lumber, wood chips, pulp wood, and heating fuels, are too numerous to count. Many businesses would lose their competitive edge if they are not able to receive and ship via rail. This abandonment will trickle down to many throughout the state. A state without rail in the North Country would not be inviting to new businesses, and the end result will be lost jobs.”
The $57.8 million package makes changes to questions that were already on the June ballot, reducing those by $13.5 million and $44.3 million in new proposed bonding. Items already on the June ballot that are being amended include the elimination of a proposal to bond $12 million for the weatherization of homes and businesses, reducing funding for the Working Waterfront program by $250K, reducing funding for the Small Enterprise Growth Fund by $1 million and reducing funding for the Maine Historic Preservation Commission by $250K.
According to the rating agency Standard and Poor’s, Maine has a “…favorable debt position with a low debt burden and rapid amortization of debt…” Maine has a low amount of debt per capita, ranking 33rd in nation according to Moody’s, and pays off debt over 10 years, rather than 30, like most states do.

Faith and Flesh

By Chip Schrader
Book Review Editor
“The Body of This” by Portland, Maine author Andrew McNabb, is a collection of short fiction, mostly flash fiction, depicting the spirituality, sensuality and architecture of Maine lives. While it is focused on sites like Marginal Way, Congress Street, and towns “forty five miles up the Maine coast from Portland” as far down as Boston, the stories, or better yet, snippets of each character’s life pulls this collection from regional fiction to a literary study.
The first story, “The Architecture of Things,” skims the back story of John Thomas, a tattooed blue collar worker and his lover Aoife, a devout Catholic who found true love in her opposite. The architecture of the story is sparse framework, many details are spared, and some sensual details and observations remain. Setting the tone of religion, eccentricity, sensuality, and nakedness, the story is well placed at the beginning.
To draw out the theme of eccentricity, “The Artist” begins with “My name is Trevor. I want to die.” As he tells his story about a moment in his life as an art student at the Maine College of Art in Portland, he watches a retirement home and paints it stating he wants to see it “breathe.” He observes the elderly people in a state of suspended animation by our culture. They waste away with nothing to do. But, as the story winds down, we begin to understand, in a way, where he is going with his fascination with dying, or being alive just before that time might come.
There are some very short pieces that McNabb somehow manages to wedge a complete story into, as well. “The Hunchback of Munjoy Hill” is about as long as this review, maybe shorter, and depicts an elderly man who suddenly takes to swearing in his old age. The reason springs up at the end like a riddle, and indicates a possible commentary on the change of human values without really judging the situation or character.
Such is the case with every story. The initial actions and descriptions make the reader shrug and wonder “so what,” and as the story winds to a close, there isn’t always a resolution, but the cryptic details make sense. McNabb spares the reader of any judgment or blame; snippets of their lives are just economically documented. The temptation is to blow through each story, but they demand the reader to meditate upon them. Like poetry, the reader should take each paragraph, and use the sparse wording as an opportunity to observe what is, and is not written.
From a character going back to their childhood home after years of forgetting their past, like in “Piles,” to a character who has never been naked before his wife in his eight decades, all of McNabb’s characters try to resolve the conflict between the spiritual and physical world. The common theme is managing one’s way through a strange life that follows no convention or norm that the architectures of society or religion, have failed to dictate. “The Body of This” is a wonderful surprise from a collection that could fit into a Sunday devotional.
Photo caption: (Courtesy photo of book cover)

Old Berwick Historical Society to Present Archaeological Heritage of the Isles of Shoals

Isles of Shoals Marine Laboratory archaeologist Nathan Hamilton will present a report on his recent excavations of a fishing station on Smuttynose Island.
Sponsored by the Old Berwick Historical Society, the lecture will be held Thursday evening, April 22, at 7:30 p.m. at Berwick Academy’s Jeppesen Science Center on Academy Street. Admission is free, and volunteers will serve refreshments.
The Shoals Marine Laboratory, in conjunction with the Smuttynose Island Stewards Program, has supported two archaeological field seasons on the island, eight miles from the Maine and New Hampshire coasts. During the summers of 2008 and 2009, excavations identified a large prehistoric Native American site and a 17th century European fishing station. Hamilton’s project has focused on recovery and analysis of marine and coastal animal remains.
The Haley family also left its mark on the archaeological record of Smuttynose between 1770 and the 1840s. Finds from the mid-1800s are associated with the hotel activities of the Mid-Ocean House, operated on the island by the family of poet Celia Thaxter.
Hamilton is associate professor in the geography-anthropology department of the University of Southern Maine. While at the University of Pittsburgh he completed his Ph.D. in anthropology on prehistoric maritime adaptation in western Maine. His research interests include evolution of the Gulf of Maine’s coastal environments, faunal analysis and prehistoric diet. He also studies ethnicity through textiles and basketry production among communities in the Virgin Islands as well as Quechua speaking peoples of the Peruvian Andes.
This event is part of the Old Berwick Historical Society’s 2010 series of talks, walks and historical events. The series is supported by members, including Kennebunk Savings Bank, the major sponsor. Programs include seven monthly evening presentations as well as other local history events around South Berwick, including the society’s Counting House Museum.
More information on all the Old Berwick Historical Society’s programs is available at, or by calling (207) 384-0000.
Photo caption: Archaeologist Nathan Hamilton at his dig site at Smuttynose Island in 2009, when he explored marine and coastal animal remains dating back to prehistoric times. (Courtesy photo)