Jobs for panhandlers; how EPA cuts could affect Maine

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight: Portland is considering a program that would put panhandlers to work; the story of a captain who saved his crew during a big storm; and the last organ repairman in Portland.

Also, President Donald Trump today signed a new executive order that puts a 90-day ban on new visas for citizens of a half-dozen majority-Muslim countries, suspends the refugee program for 120 days and reduces the annual cap of refugees allowed from 110,000 to 50,000.

What we’re talking about

Portland wants to put panhandlers to work — The city is now considering a new tactic in its efforts to reduce panhandling: Putting people to work. City councilors this month will consider a proposal to create a $42,000 pilot program to pay five people to clean up parks on two days a week from April to November, Randy Billings of the Press Herald reports.

Meet Portland’s only organ repairman — “Nick Orso is one of Greater Portland’s last organ repairmen, and he’s on a mission to save the musical instruments from disrepair and discontinuity,” Kathleen Pierce writes.

Portland Pipe Line Corp. wants a big tax break — The oil pipeline company that’s suing South Portland for blocking it from importing tar sands oil now wants a massive tax break — saying the ordinance means its properties are now worth about $18 million less.

Patty Wight from Maine Public reports:

[I]n its application, the company points to the city’s Clear Skies Ordinance as the reason for the reduced value of its property. That ordinance effectively blocked efforts by the company to reverse the flow of its 236-mile pipeline that pumps oil to Canada, and instead bring Canadian crude oil into Maine. …

Portland Pipe Line says it now suffers from “severe economic obsolescence.”

Here’s how EPA cuts, policy changes could affect Maine — Bill Trotter lays out how, “President Donald Trump’s plans to shrink and redirect the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could have a severe impact on Maine where, according to one environmental advocacy official, state environmental programs already have been ‘cut down to the bone.’”

King’s session on Supreme Court nominee was mostly about Trump — Michael Shepherd reports on Sen. Angus King’s “listening session” (basically a town hall) at USM on Sunday evening: 

King didn’t express many opinions during the session, but his remarks toward the event’s end showed that he appears to admire [Neil] Gorsuch on some things, calling him “exceedingly independent” and praising his tendency to enforce limits on executive power.

“To be honest with you, it’s one of the things that’s weighing in my mind because as many of you have pointed out, with this president it’s going to be important to have an independent judiciary that will say, ‘No, you can’t do that,’” he said.

MECA’s new president has Harvard chops — So long Stuart Kestenbaum. Hello Laura Freid. The Maine College of Art has hired Freid to be the 18th president of the 135-year-old art school. She takes over for Kestenbaum, who was named interim president after Don Tuski left last June. Freid has worked at Harvard and Brown universities and partnered with cellist Yo-Yo Ma on The Silk Road Project. She was also publisher of Harvard Magazine. — Kathleen Pierce

BDN Portland’s banjournalist’ will sing ‘The North Pond Hermit’ again this week  — BDN Portland visual storyteller and “banjournalist” Troy R. Bennett is appearing with author Michael Finkel at Space Gallery on Congress Street tomorrow night. Bennett will reprise his North Pond Hermit song while Finkel talks about his new book “The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit.” Bennett is also scheduled to appear with Finkel in Augusta and Waterville this week. The BDN hosts a discussion with Finkel on Friday in Bangor. Check out the BDN Portland Facebook page tomorrow night for live coverage. — Kathleen Pierce

How a captain steered his bow-less ship to safety — During a howling gale in 1947, a massive wave lifted the Oakey L. Alexander clean out of the water. The forward third broke off and sank to the bottom. Luckily, the front section tore at the seam of a watertight bulkhead. The steam engines stayed dry and Capt. Raymond Lewis stayed calm.

Tweet of the day

From @backhoe_mix:

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The Big Idea

‘Here’s the Reality About Illegal Immigrants in the United States’ — The New York Times lays out some facts about unauthorized immigrants, such as: Where they come from, how long they stay here and how many have criminal records.


Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at, 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 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.