Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight: Charles Dickens’ awkward Portland visit; slow down on I-295; and the cat-lover who helped elect Trump.
What we’re talking about
JUST IN: Jeff Merrill II has stepped down from his position as superintendent of Long Creek Youth Development Center, the Department of Corrections confirmed to the BDN’s Dawn Gagnon this evening. Jake Bleiberg last week broke the news that Merrill was put on leave on Wednesday amid an investigation. Dawn and Jake will have a story up soon on bangordailynews.com.
Charles Dickens wasn’t a huge Portland fan — Troy R. Bennett’s latest Portland history piece:
One of the most famous authors in the English language visited Portland 149 years ago this week. He didn’t much like it but the city wasn’t thrilled with him, either.
Charles Dickens stepped off the train at the old station at the foot of State Street on Saturday, March 30, 1868. By then, he’d already published “Oliver Twist,” “David Copperfield” and “A Christmas Carol.” Everybody knew who he was. He’d sold thousands, upon thousands, of books in the United States. He was in town to give a reading on Monday night.
Nobody was waiting for him at the station. No brass band played and the mayor was not there to shake his hand. An adoring mob of admirers had greeted him in Boston. In Portland, nothing.
Coffee with Cooks returns — Our popular FB Live series took a week off. But we are back with more caffeine and culture. Tomorrow at 2:15 p.m. join Kathleen Pierce and Sur Lie executive chef Emil Rivera for a live discussion about his small plate paradise on Free Street. How did this Puerto Rico native make the shift to New England-style tapas? Join the conversation here.
‘Time for Maine to close state’s only youth prison’ — The Press Herald’s editorial board writes: “It is time to close Long Creek, and target resources toward facilities and programs that are more successful in turning troubled youths into productive adults.”
A Maine woman who protects the dying can barely afford to live — Salena Sawtelle, a certified nursing assistant who works hard to care for her clients, but can’t afford a new pair of work clogs, Rosie Hughes writes:
Maine cannot afford to lose Sawtelle.
She is part of an almost entirely female workforce of nearly 24,000 direct caregivers — those who provide hands-on, long-term care to the elderly and disabled — who will be needed to help Maine’s burgeoning population of seniors age with dignity in the coming decades.
Health care on the whole will be Maine’s job engine for the foreseeable future, and direct care workers will see some of the fastest growth. The state is anticipated to need 2,470 new direct care workers — which is the umbrella term for CNAs, personal care aides and home health aides — between 2014 and 2024.
Yet at a time when demand for these caregivers is at an all-time high, the incentives to do the work are at record lows. Wages have not kept up with inflation over the past decade; high turnover and unfilled vacancies have destabilized the work environment; and there are few opportunities for advancement despite openings further up the health care job chain.
Taste of Midcoast in Portland — This week the culinary duo from Natalie’s Restaurant at the Camden Harbour Inn pop up in Portland. Co-chefs Chris and Shelby Long take over Tempo Dulu on Danforth Street for a spell. Their swank spread includes lobster, oysters, flounder, offal and squid and shakes up this Southeast Asian emporium. Natalie’s popup dinners run through April 2.
Time to slow down on I-295 — In case you missed it, starting today, the speed limit on Interstate 295 from Falmouth to Topsham dropped to 65 mph — spurred by a nearly 30 percent increase in crashes since 2014.
Tweet of the day
From Patton Oswalt:
The Big Idea
‘Trump’s Money Man’ — Hedge-fund tycoon Robert Mercer subscribes to the philosophy of Ayn Rand, prefers the company of cats to people and invested $1.6 million into an Oregon-based organization that believes the secret to eternal life rests in 14,000 frozen samples of human urine. He may also have done more than any other person to put Donald Trump in the White House, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports.
Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at email@example.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.