John Christie

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Stuck at home

Who ya kidding takes on the euphemisms of a disgraced baseball hero. The quote: "The timing is better for me. Back then, it just wasn’t right." --Barry Bonds, March 10 Continue Reading →

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Out to lunch

THE QUOTE
"Today, all we are asking -- and expecting -- is for the adults to have a conversation about the hungry children at their school, in their community. Today, we are asking schools who already offer summer programming like a rec program, to consider whether a summer food program is right for them." WHO SAID IT
Maine state Senate President Justin Alfond in a speech on the floor of the Senate on Feb. 11

THE QUOTE
"This bill presents an irresponsible unfunded mandate." WHO SAID IT
Gov. Paul LePage in his Jan. Continue Reading →

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Shoulda, coulda, woulda

THE QUOTE
"... the Pine Tree Development Zone (PTDZ) program demonstrates the importance of competitive tax policy for new and growing companies leading to the creation and/or retention of nearly 10,000 jobs that could have landed in other states ..." WHO SAID IT
The state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) in a press release, Feb. 2, 2014. BACKGROUND
The statement from DECD refers to a section of the just-released “Comprehensive Evaluation of Maine’s Economic Development Incentive Programs.” Such programs have been in the news in recent years because critics say they cost the state millions of dollars each year while there is scant evidence of their cost-effectiveness. Continue Reading →

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THE BOOK ON PAUL LEPAGE: The ‘biggest, baddest person around’ crashes Augusta’s ‘nicey-nicey’ club

the-book-LePage-header

Three years ago, Maine voters made a little-known mayor from a small central Maine city the 74th governor of the state.

And nothing’s been the same since.

Paul LePage came into office insulting the president of the United States and hasn’t slowed down to this day.

The Waterville mayor and Marden’s general manager walked onto the political stage as a long shot in the 2010 Republican primary. But he emerged ahead of better-known names such as Les Otten and Peter Mills with his brand of fist-pounding promises to straighten out the state’s books, be “business-friendly,” cut taxes and reduce welfare.

In the 657 days he has been in office, LePage has been on page one nearly as often as the weather forecast. Usually, he’s out there with blunt – some say crude – remarks, threats and demands.

But there’s a lot more to the LePage story than his self-described “big mouth.” There’s also his record on substantive issues, from the pension debt to the income tax, from business regulation to the environment, domestic violence to education.

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting presents an in-depth study of the governor: “The Book on Paul LePage: The ‘biggest, baddest person around’ crashes Augusta’s ‘nicey-nice’ club.”
Continue Reading →

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Curveballs, naked emperors and BS: post-election reflections of a reporter

German philosopher Max Weber said, “Politics is the art of compromise.”

And, Weber might have added: Elections are the art of exaggeration. We at the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting spent much of the spring and summer checking out the claims of the three major candidates for U. S. senate, focusing mostly on what they said they had done to fix the economy and promote jobs. What we found, with some modest exceptions, had more spin on it than a Sandy Koufax (you call look him up) curveball. But there’s more to be learned from politicians “practiced in the art of deception,” to quote the Rolling Stones, which I like to do whenever the opportunity presents itself. Now that the votes have been (mostly) counted, the TV ads silenced and the pundits (there are so many) either crowing or eating crow, we thought we’d try to find some broader meaning from our months of reporting. Continue Reading →

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Summers’ jobs program fails to live up to his claims of success

Charlie Summers, photo Linda Coan O’Kresik, BDN

Republican Charlie Summers has pinned his campaign for the U. S. Senate on a vow to improve the economy and create jobs on a national level the way he says he has on the state level. Charlie Summers, photo Linda Coan O’Kresik, BDN

As Maine’s secretary of state, Summers added a $50,000 “Small Business Advocate” in his office that he says on his campaign website shows how “investing in small businesses will create jobs and strengthen our economy.”

If elected, Summers states he will “introduce legislation that will create a national small business advocate, just like the one I successfully lobbied for in Maine who has already saved Maine businesses from undue state regulators.”

But a Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting examination of the business advocate’s own records tells a much more mixed story of the effectiveness of the new position that was filled last October by Jay Martin of Old Town. While Summers boasts the program is a job creator, in the 10 months the advocate has been on the job, records show few, if any, new jobs can be directly attributed to the work of the business advocate. For seven weeks this spring and summer, from June 1 to July 27, the advocate did not have a single open case, according to weekly activity reports. The records also reveal that the advocate claims credit for solving problems that others solved, suffers from legal restrictions that handicap his effectiveness and did not meet two of the six minimum requirements for the job. Continue Reading →

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Energy stories spark editorials, legislative summons

The Sun Journal published an editorial based on our stories about the Maine Green Energy Alliance:
Energy group wasted money, got little done

Let’s imagine you are starting a business,  ABC Consulting. You need 13 employees, including a manager. So you advertise, compare resumes, interview and check references before hiring. Then, on the first day of work you are having lunch with your new employees when one mentions he used to be a Democratic House member from Bangor. Another employee says, “Hey, that’s interesting, because I’m a Democrat running for the House.”

Then, strangely, another pipes up and says she is also a candidate for the House. Continue Reading →

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Dexter tragedy brings bipartisan focus to domestic violence bail decisions

Purple balloons were launched by the attendees at a gathering in remembrance of Amy, Coty and Monica Lake who were murdered by Amy's husband Steven Lake, the father of their children. Photo Diana Bowley, BDN

Sometimes it takes a death. Sometimes it takes four deaths: a mother, her two children and the man who killed them and then killed himself. The deaths of Amy, Monica and Coty Lake at the hands of their husband and father, Steven Lake, may be the tragedy that brings major reform to how the criminal justice system handles dangerous domestic violence cases. The June 13 triple murder-suicide is becoming a rallying point

for changes in the system from an unofficial coalition of domestic violence groups, leading Republicans and Democrats and the state’s top judge and top cop. “Change will occur,” said Brian Gagan. Continue Reading →

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‘Broken’ bail system freed man who went on to murder family

Steven Lake   Photo Piscataquis County Jail

“These four people died needlessly …”

-- From a psychological autopsy of the triple murder and suicide in Dexter, June 13, 2011

The study rests on a shelf deep in the documents room at the state library. It has been sitting there since September 2006, most of its recommendations going the way of the hundreds of government blue ribbon studies that fill the other shelves – waiting for action. Among the report’s findings: a strong critique of Maine‘s archaic bail system, a system that entrusts to minimally trained bail commissioners the decision of whether potentially dangerous men and women can be free on bail. The people who asked for the study – with the bland title, “Pretrial Case Processing in Maine” – are the same people who could implement the recommendations: the state legislators. If they had taken the findings to heart, turned them into legislation and funded them, they might have saved lives. Continue Reading →

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Veteran media executives join journalism board

Nick Mills

A distinguished editor and a former public broadcasting executive have joined the board of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting (MCPIR) as the Hallowell-based organization nears its second anniversary. Matthew V. Storin, the former editor of the Boston Globe, the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Daily News and Maine Times, recently retired to Camden. He said, “I’m excited about supporting a much-needed, high-quality investigative journalism venture in Maine. When one considers the state of journalism nationally today, there is much to be pessimistic about. Fortunately, MCPIR is a bold strike in the opposite direction.”

Gordon Lutz of Holden retired in 2008 as Director of Corporate Support at Maine Public Broadcasting, where he worked for eight years. Continue Reading →

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