By:Dave Sherwood @Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting |
The Legislature’s investigative arm launched a preliminary inquiry of the state-sponsored Maine PowerOptions electricity program Feb. 17, a month after a story by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting raised questions about the group’s transparency, oversight and benefits for its members.
The inquiry will be conducted by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA), the legislature’s investigative arm. Maine PowerOptions, which is operated as a program of the Maine Municipal Bond Bank, has received no legislative scrutiny since its inception in 1999.
Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick, D-Bangor, who requested the inquiry, said his goal is to shed light on a program that he believes to be well-meaning, but that lacks transparency in its decision making.
For the first time in 16 years, staff of Maine PowerOptions appeared before lawmakers Feb. 2 to explain how the quasi-state electricity consortium brings together hundreds of municipalities and school districts across the state to help them buy power.
Part 1: Five years after a scandal at the Maine Turnpike Authority landed its director in prison, a quasi-state program — Maine PowerOptions (MPO), which brings together municipalities, school districts and other state nonprofits to purchase electricity in bulk — lacks transparency and effective oversight.
Part 2: Both a confidential state probe and a subsequent independent investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, including a review of a confidential agreement between Maine PowerOptions and its electricity supplier, raise questions about whether the quasi-state program is living up to its original mission of saving Maine taxpayers money.
Lawmakers from both parties question preliminary findings that show no evidence the state specifically targeted particular segments of the population in its marketing. The review comes after an investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting that found lottery sales in Maine jump as unemployment increases. Continue Reading →
When senior reporter Naomi Schalit began her nine months of research for our series on Maine’s single parents in poverty, one of her first stops was Isabel Sawhill’s office at the Brookings Institution. You’ll find many quotes from Sawhill in Schalit’s five-part series; here is the complete interview transcript. Continue Reading →
Part 1: In one of the most in-depth series that the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has ever published, Senior Reporter Naomi Schalit discovers and calls attention to a dramatic change in the Maine family — a 500 percent increase in the proportion of children born to single parents in the last 43 years. Nearly half of all births in the state are now to mothers who are not married.
Because most of those single parents can’t afford to raise a child — or two or three children — they are destined to live in poverty. And when children are raised in that kind of poverty and deprivation, their brains are literally harmed, setting the stage for a lifetime of negative effects, according to the experts interviewed by Schalit.
At a time when poverty and welfare have become polarizing political issues in Maine, the very people who know the most about this problem don’t want to talk frankly about it for fear of backlash against the parents and children they are trying to help. It took nine months of digging into the problem — interviews with national experts, days spent with single mothers, time in the state prison with single fathers and repeated visits with teachers, social workers and public officials — for Schalit to bring forward this essential story.
Part 2: The story of one single mother speaks to the struggles shared by many single parents in Maine. “Every week’s the same,” she said. “I’m always broke. The electric, internet, diapers, toiletries, food when we run out of my food card…” Continue Reading →
Part 3: Veteran teachers and school officials are on the front lines of the crisis of the growth of children coming from poor families, many with just one parent at home. Their experiences show the impact of the changing face of the Maine family. Continue Reading →
Part 5: Is there a solution to the single-parent crisis? Not an easy one, say the experts and the people who try to help single mothers and their children. But we show you how they are trying. Continue Reading →
The state committee charged with promoting transparency in government is asking lawmakers to overhaul a 2015 law that made secret information about the transportation of crude oil and other hazardous materials by railroad through Maine.
The legislature’s Right-to-Know Advisory Committee voted Wednesday to send a letter to the Judiciary Committee recommending that it reconsider the controversial law in order to ensure that the government is not keeping railroad data secret unnecessarily. Continue Reading →
Organizers of a brand-new political action committee that has quickly attracted some of Maine’s largest donors revealed August 3 that one of the PAC’s officers is perhaps the most well-known man in Maine: Governor Paul LePage. Continue Reading →
The Maine Ethics Commission has fined losing Senate candidate Rep. Diane Russell $500 for failing to disclose her contribution to her Senate campaign of a valuable email list, closing the books on a series of ethics complaints generated by the recent Portland Democratic Senate primary. But the complaints — two against Russell and one against primary winner Rep. Ben Chipman — may end up having a broader effect on Maine campaign-finance law and how elections are run. Continue Reading →