The city removed a popular panhandling median this week

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight is First Friday Art Walk. Here’s what’s going on.  

What we’re talking about

Troy Bennett today reports:

Motorists approaching downtown Portland via outer Congress Street will no longer be asked for money by panhandlers in the median strip at the corner of St. John Street. The city removed the median — curb, flowers, sign and all — earlier this week. The three-lane roadway is now paved flat in the middle.

However, BDN Portland reader Patrick Ledwith posted a photo on Facebook this morning, taken just before 8:30 a.m., showing a woman panhandling in the middle of the street, notwithstanding the lack of a median strip.

Despite Portland’s public legal battle to keep panhandlers out of the medians, which it lost in a federal appeals court last year, city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said the removal of the median had nothing to do with panhandlers.

“When the Department of Public Works re-striped the Congress Street inbound approach at St. John last year to accommodate a bike lane, the through lane was rather pinched up against the median (literally about 9.75 feet),” she said in an email. “As a result … we added removal of the median to the work plan to better adjust the lane geometry and alignments.”

The corner was a popular and visible location for panhandlers who often waited in line for their turn or slept in the grass behind a picket fence nearby. The scene greeted thousands of motorists a day as they approached the city’s downtown.

ICYMI

Why a refugee and Army veteran in Maine says he’s supporting Trump — A refugee living in southern Maine, who came to the United States after fleeing famine, civil war and genocide in Sudan and went on to serve his adopted home as a soldier deployed to Iraq, says he will be voting for Donald Trump.

On Thursday, many leaders in Maine’s immigrant community blasted the Republican presidential candidate for demanding that the United States stop admitting people from “dangerous places in the world” during a Portland rally, adding to a long list of Trump’s divisive anti-immigrant proposals that include building a wall along the Mexican border and banning Muslims from entering the country.

But Kwan Malwal, chairman of the South Sudanese Community Association of Maine, told BDN Portland that he’s a Trump fan.

Outsider or dictator in waiting? Trump’s tone divides Mainers — Reviews of his rally yesterday were mixed.

5 photos that show how bad Portland’s aging elementary schools really are — Jake Bleiberg took the tour earlier this week of Presumscot and Lyseth elementary schools to see exactly what conditions are like. The city is considering putting a bond to voters that would pay for the overdue renovations. Here’s what he found.

Big ideas

How Trump tailored his message to Maine — Mike Shepherd lists all the other Maine-related topics that Trump touched on.

‘Most Americans would eliminate 1,000 foreign jobs to protect one U.S. worker’ — The Washington Post reports: “Most economists contend that while trade might result in disemployment and reduced wages for workers in specific U.S. industries, international commerce benefits the United States on the whole, as it does foreign countries. Yet this optimistic view of trade is rare among the general public, [researchers] found.”


Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the editor of BDN Portland. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.