‘When we find a way to walk into that fear, magic happens’

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight an update on one woman’s local efforts to help more people play music; the city is considering ways to make your internet faster; and a massive restructuring of the not-for-profit MaineHealth would create the largest business headquartered in Maine.

What we’re talking about

A Portland woman gets a little help in her mission to give instruments to new MainersTroy Bennett earlier this year interviewed Jenny Van West, who turned to her network of musician friends to find instruments for new Mainers. In an update that’s part of an end-of-the-year series following up on people the BDN has written about in 2016, Troy got an update on her efforts:

Van West has been successful at finding donated instruments from local musicians. But the $5,000 grant she received in late November from the Mountain Hill School at Milton Academy’s Garden Hill Fund will allow her to go even further. She’ll be able to help pay for instrument repairs, new strings and lessons. …

The fund’s grants are awarded each year to alumni who, according to its website, “reach beyond the self and focus on the common good — in their own communities and the larger world.”

Though the cash infusion helps, Van West is always looking for more instruments. She still has a waiting list, including two men from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who are waiting for an asylum ruling right now.

The solo, volunteer work she does in tracking down the needy and coordinating donations is difficult and time consuming. She also has her own family and career to manage.

Add that to the often chilling rhetoric around immigration from state and national politicians, and you might wonder why Van West goes to all the trouble.

“There’s a lot of fear out there right now, fear of everything. But when we find a way to walk into that fear, magic happens,” she said. “I’m just in it for the magic.”

The city is looking at ways to connect more people to high-speed broadband — David Harry of The Forecaster reports that city councilors reviewed a proposal from Sifi Networks of America to expand the city’s fiber-optic network. It could make the internet faster for 30,000 homes and 4,500 businesses.

David reports that officials say it wouldn’t cost taxpayers anything:

Options for the city include a lease arrangement with Sifi, where user fees to the city would fund lease payments while still turning a profit for the city. [Finance Director Brendan] O’Connell said the lease payments could be $5.3 million in the fifth year of a 30-year lease and $6.6 million by its final year. At the same time, revenues would grow from $5.3 million to $9.3 million.

A member the committee, David Brenerman, tells BDN Portland’s Jake Bleiberg that such an expansion could be a huge tool for economic growth:

“What we’re seeing nationwide is that cities that have a faster network see it improve the business climate in their community because businesses are demanding the fastest system possible,” he said.

MaineHealth moves to centralize spending decisions for its $2B hospital network — Jackie Farwell reports:

MaineHealth, based in Portland, seeks to combine its member hospitals into a single, $2 billion organization overseen by one governing board. Currently, member hospitals determine their spending priorities on the local level first, with a subsequent review by the network board.

MaineHealth calls its proposal part of a necessary evolution in the face of growing economic pressures. But the idea, although still in the early stages, is already fueling concern about how much control local communities would maintain over the hospitals that anchor their regions. …

MaineHealth is a not-for-profit, but measured by revenue, this reorganization would create the largest business headquartered in Maine, exceeding L.L. Bean. MaineHealth is already Maine’s largest employer, with about 18,000 employees who work throughout the system.

Tweet of the day

Kanye West tweeted this shortly after meeting with President-elect Donald Trump: 


The real story, via Vox:Trump also announced Monday night that he was canceling a planned press conference on how he aims to extricate himself from his business empire while in office. … Naturally, it would make sense that Trump wanted to hand the press a shiny object to distract from all this. The meeting with Kanye soon ensued.”

The Big Idea

How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S. — The New York Times reports:

While there’s no way to be certain of the ultimate impact of the hack, this much is clear: A low-cost, high-impact weapon that Russia had test-fired in elections from Ukraine to Europe was trained on the United States, with devastating effectiveness. For Russia, with an enfeebled economy and a nuclear arsenal it cannot use short of all-out war, cyberpower proved the perfect weapon: cheap, hard to see coming, hard to trace.

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 managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.