Jessica Gleason, center, urges for systemic change within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services on July 1, 2021 at a gathering outside of the agency's Rockland office following the death of Maddox Williams. Maddox's paternal grandmother and aunt, left, were also in attendance. Credit: Lauren Abbate / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. The Daily Brief will be taking tomorrow off for Veterans Day.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The hunt exceeded my expectations,” said Andrew Doiron, who brought in a group of terriers to eradicate the rats from his Gardiner farm. “Plus, it was a blast of an experience — and that may sound like a bit of a Maine hick-ish thing to say, but it was something not many people have seen.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

Lawmakers will hear from the embattled child welfare system’s watchdog today as they consider more changes. The Legislature’s watchdog and health committees are expected to discuss Casey Family Program’s fall report detailing the staffing and communication challenges the Office of Child and Family Services is struggling with in the aftermath of five child deaths — allegedly at the hands of their parents — in the month of June alone.

The meeting will also feature a presentation from Child Welfare Ombudsman Christine Alberi, who had raised structural concerns about the department. The meeting starts at 10 a.m., with the child welfare portion expected to begin in the afternoon. You can follow along here.

Critics have said the report did not go far enough in exploring structural challenges in the department. The Department of Health and Human Services quickly made some changes based on the report, including establishing protocols for working with hospitals and law enforcement. More reports are coming, with the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability preparing three on the system to be released over the course of 2022.

The panel’s work for the rest of the year could determine which reform ideas move forward in the short term. A bipartisan majority of a panel of legislative leaders advanced several bills aimed at overhauling the system to the 2022 session last month, including those that would beef up Alberi’s office and give her a more active role in cases.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine’s infrastructure bill windfall won’t plug chronic road and bridge funding gap,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “While the most commonly cited price tag for the bipartisan infrastructure bill is $1 trillion or more, not all of the funding is new. The largest part of the money Maine will receive from the bill — about $1.3 billion over five years — is for roads. But that only amounts to a 25 percent increase over the highway funds out of a federal funding formula that the state already receives.”

Maine’s swing-seat congressman said constituents support his attention to the infrastructure bill and his bid to slow a larger spending bill. U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, told Maine Public that his party’s bid to package the $1 trillion infrastructure bill and the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better proposal was a “failed strategy.” He is now one of two House Democrats who has not pledged to vote for the larger measure after a fiscal analysis is released in the coming days, drawing ire from progressives here.

— “Roberto Rodriguez leads Portland’s at-large council race after recount,” Nick Schroeder, BDN: “Lawyers for both candidates were still discussing 37 disputed ballots Tuesday night, making the race unresolved. The next step toward determining a winner was for the two legal teams to agree on the disputed ballots and whether they meaningfully change [former school board chair Roberto] Rodriguez’s 35-vote lead.”

The recount will continue or perhaps conclude this morning. The city and an attorney for Rodriguez said they were confident that all votes were counted as of Monday night, but the dispute ballots must be resolved and apparent runner-up Brandon Mazer, the planning board chair and a lawyer, reserves the right to challenge the ultimate result. If the 35-vote margin holds, it is difficult to see Mazer’s path to victory via disputed ballots.

— “There’s more illegal activity in Maine’s medical marijuana market, state’s top pot official says,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “While the Office of Marijuana Policy has 12 field investigators, [director Erik] Gundersen said that wasn’t sufficient for performing the necessary level of oversight when the investigators are only getting to registrants every four to five years. Even then, they might not be able to identify illicit activity, he said.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...