Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight: The city may soon have some Airbnb regulations; a coffee shop where you can get a unicorn with your latte; and librarians hatched an elaborate caper to save books.
What we’re talking about
Portland may soon ask Airbnb users to pay for the privilege of renting out their property — The group that’s been studying how to regulate short-term rentals through services like Airbnb is expected to recommend a set of policies to the City Council.
If eventually approved by the full City Council, the regulations being considered Wednesday night by the housing committee would require people renting out space through such sites to register with the city and pay an annual fee. These fees might be steeply graduated — between $35 and $8,000, depending on the type and number of rentals, according to a draft of the proposed regulations.
Regular rental properties must already register with the city. Revenue from the registration fees would go toward a city fund that is used to promote affordable housing.
The committee also is pondering limiting the number of people who can stay in an Airbnb to two per bedroom, plus an additional two. And it may also recommend that the City Council place a city-wide cap on non-owner occupied units that can be rented for short terms. This proposal is meant to respond to the worry that Airbnb is taking rentals off the market and driving up Portland’s already high rents.
Someone only renting out his or her own home would only have to pay $35 and could get a discount by showing that the property meets certain criteria, such as having working smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, according to the proposal. But people looking to rent out multiple properties or homes that they do not live in might have to pay much more.
Those regulations can’t come soon enough for some residents. The Press Herald reports some Portlanders are frustrated by what they see as people operating businesses in residential neighborhoods. — Jake Bleiberg
Mary Mayhew insists on photo IDs for infant nutrition program and loses $1.4M — Matt Stone continues his scrutiny of the workings of the Department of Health and Human Services:
Maine has had to forfeit $1.4 million because it fell behind on its timeline to bring a nutrition program for women and young children into a paperless age. Now, Gov. Paul LePage’s administration says it has “no plan” to upgrade the program’s technology even though the state has to under federal law.
The delay is the result of an impasse between Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew — who wants to require photo identification on program benefit cards — and the federal government, as illustrated by emails and documents obtained by the BDN.
Legislative leaders strike deal to delay most of weed legalization — You’ll still be able to possess up to 2.5 ounces of pot by the end of the month, but most of the other aspects of the new law will likely be delayed until 2018. Michael Shepherd lays out what’s changed here.
This Portland School Board member has lots of opinions — Holly Seeliger, now in her second term, started a YouTube channel called “Zoon Politikon” about two months ago. Since then, Seeliger’s posted nearly 60 short videos on topics ranging from her skepticism surrounding Russian email hacks, to city gentrification, to the proper way to put toilet paper on a roll. — Troy R. Bennett
Man dies in 40-foot fall — WMTW is reporting that a 38-year-old man died Wednesday morning after falling from a window of a Portland apartment building. The unidentified man was found just before 7 a.m. in a parking lot next to Burnham Arms Apartments at 633 Congress St.
A Portland barista makes pretty awesome latte art — Kathleen Pierce got an early look at the new coffee shop on Cumberland Avenue behind Merrill Auditorium. The barista, Olivia Byars, is known for the incredible designs she puts in the milk on top of lattes.
Latte art has been part of the coffee circuit for years. Greater Portland cafes host their own throw downs to see who can create the best patterns. But most baristas don’t freestyle like this on a daily basis. When Byars is behind the La Marzocco espresso machine, customers ordering a latte to stay will automatically find artistry in their cup. (If you become a regular, watch out. You might start to see your own likeness staring back at you).
Tweet of the day
The best thing we read today
‘To save books, librarians create fake “reader” to check out titles’ — Filing this under “news stories we’d really like to see turned into Cohen brother movies.”
Chuck Finley appears to be a voracious reader, having checked out 2,361 books at the East Lake County Library in a nine-month period this year.
But Finley didn’t read a single one of the books, ranging from “Cannery Row” by John Steinbeck to a kids book called “Why Do My Ears Pop?” by Ann Fullick. That’s because Finley isn’t real.
The fictional character was concocted by two employees at the library, complete with a false address and driver’s license number.
After allegations by an unidentified person made in November, an investigation by the Lake County clerk of courts’ inspector general’s office concluded that Finley was a fake, and the county has since requested a systemwide audit of its libraries.
The goal behind the creation of “Chuck Finley” was to make sure certain books stayed on the shelves — books that aren’t used for a long period can be discarded and removed from the library system.
Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at email@example.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.