June 25, 2018
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Chamber volunteers make a difference in their communities

Chris Hall, senior vice president for government relations, Portland Regional Chamber
By Chris Hall, Portland Regional Chamber

I spend a lot of time in this space talking about state and regional issues. That’s as it should be. But today I’d like to let you know about advocacy at the local level, something I’ll be writing about more often in the future.

Our Community Chambers (Falmouth/Cumberland, Portland, Scarborough, South Portland/Cape Elizabeth and Westbrook/Gorham) are all actively engaged with local issues that impact their communities. Our volunteers regularly meet with elected officials as well as municipal and school managers to offer their support, advice and assistance on a wide variety of topics.

For instance our Scarborough Chamber leaders have worked with the Town to help craft The Vision, a community-supported plan for economic growth. Our South Portland/Cape and Westbrook/Gorham members sit on municipal economic advisory committees and routinely have input into local business-related decisions. In Portland our members work with Chris O’Neil to make sure the Mayor and the Council have the Portland business community’s perspective on issues, and the Chamber has collaborated with the City and other partners to produce Portland’s Economic Development Vision & Plan. And all our Community Chambers work with their local schools to support educational excellence.

This week our Falmouth/Cumberland volunteers weighed into the long-running discussion about the future of Falmouth’s Route 1 shopping district. Members organized an informational forum, heard from businesses, Council members and citizens, and concluded that more time is needed to get the details right on zoning limits which will re-shape business activity in Town. For more on their good work jump down to Around the Region: Falmouth.

With all the headline-grabbing subjects to know about it’s easy sometimes to forget the positive collaborations that are happening every week as Chamber volunteers work together with everyone in town to help make their community stronger. It’s something we’re all proud of, and it’s another way the Portland Regional Chamber supports our region’s prosperity.

Regional Election coverage: To help you stay informed we’re compiling all the profiles of state house race that have appeared in various papers over the last few weeks. In addition to what’s below you can find candidate profiles, questionnaire responses and more on the dedicated voters’ guide pages of the PPH and the BDN (be sure to click through all the way to get all the available information).

You can follow these links for more information on voting in your community: Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gorham, Portland, Scarborough, South Portland and Westbrook. Look below in our Regional section for information about municipal elections.

Here’s what we have so far on state house races in our region:

  1. James Boyle v. Ruth Summers: Senate District 6 (Gorham, parts of Westbrook and Scarborough)
  2. Rebecca J. Millett v. Michael D. Wallace: Senate District 7 (Cape Elizabeth, South Portland, part of Scarborough)
  3. Justin Alfond v. Asher Platts: Senate District 8 (parts of Portland)
  4. Anne Haskell v. Kirsten Martin: Senate District 9 (Portland’s Back Cove, Deering and parts of Westbrook)
  5. Chris Tyll v. Richard Woodbury: Senate District 11 (Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gray, Long Island, North Yarmouth and Yarmouth)
  6. Joseph Kumiszcza v. Stephen Moriarty: House District 108 (Cumberland, part of N. Yarmouth)
  7. John Logan Jones v. Mary P. Nelson: House District 112 (Falmouth, part of Portland)
  8. Mark Dion v. Jeffrey Langholtz: House District 113 (Portland’s North Deering, Falmouth west of I-95)
  9. Eric Bleicken v. Peter Stuckey: House District 114 (Portland’s East Deering, islands, and east of Washington Ave)
  10. Erik Jorgensen v. Seth Berner: House District 115 (Portland’s Back Cove)
  11. Richard Farnsworth v. Frederic Miller: House District 117 (Portland’s Deering, Libbytown, Rosemont and Stroudwater neighborhoods)
  12. Kevin Casey v. Tom MacMillan v. Matt Moonen: House District 118 (Portland’s West End and Libbytown)
  13. Herb Adams v. Ben Chipman v. Gwen Tuttle: House District 119 (Portland’s Bayside, East Bayside and Parkside neighborhoods)
  14. Kim Monaghan-Derrig v. Nancy Thompson: House District 121 (most of Cape Elizabeth); another profile of the race
  15. Terry Morrison v. Chris Kessler v. Thomas Sarbanis: House District 122 (South Portland’s Knightville, Willard Square and Ferry Village neighborhoods)
  16. Roger Bishop v. Scott Hamann v. Kenneth Myrick: House District 123 (Cape Elizabeth, part of South Portland); another profile of the race
  17. Kevin Battle v. Bryan Kaenrath: House District 124 (South Portland’s western sections); another profile of the race
  18. Paul Aronson v. Amy Volk: House District 127 (eastern Scarborough); another profile of the race
  19. Jean-Marie Caterina v. Heather Sirocki: House District 128 (western Scarborough); another profile of the race
  20. Jane Knapp v. Andrew ?McLean: House District 129 (eastern Gorham)
  21. Matt Mattingly v. Linda Sanborn: House District 130 (western Gorham, part of Buxton)

If you need more information about the elections visit the Secretary of State’s webpage – for instance if you don’t know which legislative districts you live in, go here and check out the House and Senate District maps, or use this handy look-up utility. And don’t forget to look at the Secretary’s Voters Guide where you’ll get information that’s not easily available elsewhere.

What’s most important is this: please vote, either early or on Election Day. And remember this is one of the best times to make your voice heard. Candidates are anxious to talk to voters, so grab the opportunity and tell them what you think!

Senate Watch: Plenty of debates! Coverage of three large ones in Portland ( PPH, BDN, MPBN), Lewiston ( PPH, LSJ) and Bangor ( BDN). In the BDN Robert Long took a look at what lies ahead for the election’s winner. On a related note Charles Lawton and Susan Feiner had very different comments about concerns over the U.S.’s growing debt burden as highlighted by the Fix-the-Debt campaign.

State Policy round-up: The Maine Economic Research Institute (MERI) released its ranking of all 186 legislators’ voting records for 2011-12. If the report isn’t at the MERI link and you’d like a copy contact Ben Gilman at 207-623-4568. Speaking of ratings the Cato Institute gave Governor LePage an ‘A’ grade, one of only 4 handed out nationally ( MW report, M.D. Harmon commented).

State House Republicans championed their 2-year record in Augusta, releasing a report on their accomplishments entitled “ Promises Made, Promises Kept.” They also held a news conference to refute Democratic claims against their record ( PPH, BDN, MPBN). Rep. Andre Cushing and Amy Fried commented. As Election Day nears spending on state legislative races has grown significantly ( PPH, BDN), and out-of-state spending has ramped up too ( PPH). Elsewhere:

Ballot watch: The impact of recent changes in Maine’s Clean Election Act were illustrated in the Maine Senate District 11 race ( PPH) – the PPH editors called for a new referendum to reverse those changes.

  • Bonds: There are four bonds on the ballot this November ( PPH). The Portland Regional Chamber’s Board of Directors voted overwhelmingly back in May to support Bond Question 2 ($11 million dollars for higher education), Bond Question 4 ($51 million dollars for transportation infrastructure) and Bond Question 5 ($8 million dollars for public water and sewer infrastructure). We hope you do too.
  • Budget: September state revenues were significantly below estimates, wiping out a small accumulated surplus and putting the state in the red for the year to date ( BDN).
  • Economic Development: Comment from Mike Aube on the potential of Social Impact Bonds, from Commission George Gervais on the benefits of the cruise ship industry in Maine, from the PPH editors on the completion of the ‘3-ring binder’ project, and from George Smith and Dan Hildreth on GrowSmart Maine’s new follow up to the 2006 Brookings Report.
  • Education: K-12 administrative school consolidation continues to unravel ( PPH) – comment from the PPH editors and Charles Berg. More than half of Maine’s schools did not meet the 2012 No Child Left Behind standards ( BDN, MPBN).
  • Energy: Governor LePage assigned blame for high Maine electric energy costs to the state’s ‘Renewable Portfolio Standard’ ( LSJ). His position drew criticism from the BDN editors, Bob Cleaves, Mike Cuzzi and Rep. Stacy Fitts. The Governor responded to critics with a short video. Charles Colgan gave his views on the causes of high energy costs in an interview in the LSJ. In other energy news the PUC delayed an off-shore wind project ( MPBN) and the Administration opened review of potential energy corridors along I-95 and I-295 ( BDN).
  • Environment: Environmental groups spoke out against tar sands coming to Maine ( BDN, MPBN).
  • Other: Governor LePage promoted two of his legal advisors ( BDN). Ed Cervone is the new President of the Maine Development Foundation ( PPH).
  • Tax: Good news – the Tax Foundation moved Maine up to 30th nationally in business tax climate, making Maine the most improved state in the country in 2012 ( BDN, MPBN, MW). The Governor praised the improvement and promised that he’d push for more tax cuts in 2013 ( BDN). Meanwhile, Garrett Martin and Joel Johnson wrote to denounce recent state tax cuts – David Farmer concurred. Dan Demeritt commented on Democrat criticism of recent tax cuts.
  • Welfare Reform: Rep. Ray Wallace wrote about the state house Republicans’ welfare reform accomplishments. The BDN editors also commented on the impact of recent changes in Maine’s welfare laws.

Statewide: Reaction continued to Lewiston Mayor Robert MacDonald’s comments about immigrants ( PPH report): LSJ editors, Bill Nemitz, Sahara Hassan and Rachel Miller, Doug Rooks and Ralph Carmona.

Upcoming events: Here are four that you might be interested in attending:

  • On Tues., Oct. 23, GrowSmart Maine is holding an all-day Summit at the Augusta Civic Center to unveil its new report on Charting Maine’s Economic Future. For more information click here.
  • On Wed., Oct. 24, Idexx’s David Shaw will speak at a forum hosted by the Muskie School on ‘Adventures in Entrepreneurial Leadership’ at USM’s Wishcamper Center at 6:30 pm. For more information and to register click here.
  • On Friday October 26th Kevin Hancock from Hancock Lumber will speak about ‘A Company’s Culture Starts at the Top’ at the next Small Business Matters forum hosted by the Portland Regional Chamber and sponsored by Anthem. The event will be held at the Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks from 7 to 9 am. For more information and to register click here.
  • On Tues., Oct. 30, Mobilize Maine will host a ‘Discovery Forum’ for the greater Portland region to discuss assets in Cumberland County that can be leveraged into economic growth. The event will be held at USM’s Glickman Library from 4 to 6 pm. For more information and to register click here.

WorkReady: Rebecca Miller is the Vocational Instructor at the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. She helps inmates get ready for work after jail. She could use your help – here’s what Rebecca has to say:

“Employers here is your chance to help change the lives of nine inmates enrolled in a state certified WorkReady program. We need your help with mock interviews and we’d love to have you as a guest speaker outlining your perspective on what makes a successful and valuable employee. For more details contact Rebecca Miller 774-5939 ext. 2213.”

Give Rebecca a call if you can lend a hand – thanks.

Around the Region: If you’re interested in seeing a true regional economic development plan for our area read Charles Lawton’s excellent op-ed. He’s exactly right about the impact of local property taxes on the viability of regional development.

We’re also looking at the potential of unified regional bus service ( PPH) and the challenges that arise from MERC’s pending closure ( BDN). Elsewhere:

In Cape Elizabeth residents might want to consider applying for one of several vacancies on boards and commissions in Town.

In Cumberland discussions in North Yarmouth about leaving SAD 51 are on-going ( Forecaster).

In Falmouth the Council is scheduled to vote on 10/22 on a new 50,000 square foot tenant space limit in the SB-1 zone along Route 1 ( Forecaster). As noted above the Falmouth Cumberland Community Chamber asked the Council to delay their vote and find consensus with local businesses ( Forecaster). Bill Nemitz weighed in on the ballot question regarding the future of Metro bus service in Town.

In Gorham the Current profiled the 6-way race for two Town Council seats.

In Portland there are three Council races on the ballot – we hosted a candidates’ forum earlier this week ( PPH, PDS). Elsewhere:

  • A Council-appointed task force on ending homelessness in the City reported on its preliminary recommendations ( Forecaster). The Council discussed the report earlier this week and plans a public hearing on 11/5 ( PPH, PDS, Forecaster).
  • Changes are coming for the City’s tax increment financing policies, but the details remain under discussion;
  • The Council is taking another look at non-profit property tax exemptions with an eye toward asking many non-profits to start paying property taxes (PPH) – the PPH editors and Brenda Peluso had very different perspectives.
  • For the latest check out Chris O’Neil’s Inside City Hall. Chris serves as a consultant to the Portland Community Chamber, working closely with members and staff to represent the Chamber before Portland City officials. Inside City Hall covers a host of Portland related issues. It’s something that everyone with an interest in Portland affairs will want to read.

In Scarborough six candidates are seeking three Council seats ( Current). The Scarborough Library is one of the first in the nation to provide public access to cloud-based services by lending on-line books and readers ( PPH, Forecaster, Current). Officials are warning that sewer rates may rise by as much as 20% ( Forecaster).

In South Portland three candidates are running for two Council seats ( Forecaster). The Council approved a 319-page revision to the City’s comprehensive plan ( Forecaster). The South Portland School District is revising its vision and mission statement ( Current).

In Westbrook the Council ratified the settlement between Idexx and Pike Industries by approving zoning changes that formalize their agreement ( PPH, Current).

Want to speak out? It’s easy to do, and believe it or not, it can really work. Notice that all the legislative committees mentioned above are linked – just click on them and you’ll get emails, phone numbers and everything you need to make your voice heard in the state house. If you need help, just email me!

Feedback: So what do you think? We’d love to have your thoughts on anything you’ve read here, or on other topics that are important to you. The more you talk to us, the better we’ll represent your views. Send an email if you’d like to share your feedback with me – and thank you!

Chris Hall is Senior VP of Government Relations at the Portland Regional Chamber. This report is compiled biweekly for the chamber’s members. It provides a breakdown of recent news around state policy, as well as a heads-up on coming events. The Bangor Daily News is publishing this report in cooperation with the PRC.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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