Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight the city council will vote on school renovation bonds, likely for the last time; a Muslim woman sues her former employer for religious discrimination; and LePage is once again after Maine’s new national monument.
What we’re talking about
School bond, again — At tonight’s meeting, the city council is expected to approve a compromise measure that will allow Portlanders to vote on two separate funding packages to renovate city elementary schools. If approved, the measure will put competing $64-million and $32-million bond proposal on the November ballot and cap an extended struggle on the council over how to pay for school renovations that all members seem to agree are badly needed.
Last month, the council came one vote shy of the supermajority needed to send a $64 million proposal for renovations at Presumpscot, Longfellow, Reiche and Lyseth to voters. After weeks of deadlock Mayor Ethan Strimling and Councilor Nicholas Mavodones announced the compromise measure that would send that proposal to voters alongside a $32 million one that would pay for work at only Lyseth and Presumpscot. Proponents of the smaller bond want to seek state funding for renovations at the other two schools.
For the mechanics of the two proposals and their tax impact read this; for details on what work is needed at each school read this; and for an overview of the many past efforts to fund renovations read this.
Trump, LePage threaten national monument — The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is facing attacks on two fronts, as President Donald Trump is reportedly going to order a review of monument designations and Gov. Paul LePage is headed to Washington, D.C., to testify against it. BDN’s Nick Sambides Jr. reports:
LePage has said that he wanted the land transferred to state ownership. Baxter officials, who strive to limit access to the state park to about 75,000 visitors annually in order to preserve its wilderness, have said they fear the monument would draw people beyond that limit into Baxter.
Meanwhile, a senior White House official not authorized to speak publicly told the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah on Sunday that Trump will order a review by the federal Department of the Interior of national monuments created by presidential executive order within the past 21 years.
“All pork barbecue” — A Portland woman has filed a discrimination suit against a national furniture retailer, claiming that she was harassed by fellow employees and ultimately fired from a job at its local branch because she is Muslim. Leyla Hashi claims that in 2015 she was abruptly fired from her job at Aaron’s, a rent-to-own furniture and appliance store on Forest Avenue, after requesting a day off to observe a religious holiday. The firing allegedly followed a pattern of discrimination which Hashi says included holding an office “all pork barbecue” after she told her manager that observant Muslims don’t eat pig.
$16 million of federal money at risk in Maine — Trump’s proposal to cut Community Development Block Grants would touch nearly every corner of Maine and imperil a wide array of programs including ones for drug rehab and business development, the Press Herald’s Randy Billings reports. In Portland, the Gerald Ford-era federal funding program amounted to more than $1 million in recent years and helped fund things such as the city’s community policing program, the Preble Street Resource Center, and Amistad, a program that helps people with mental health and substance abuse issues.
If you’ve got room for a ballplayer in your life — The Sanford Mainers baseball team is looking for host families for the 2017 season. Every year, the Mainers attract young players from all over the country to play ball. But it can’t be done without the generosity of host families who open up spare rooms for the summer. — Troy R. Bennett
Coffee with Cooks returns Tuesday with chef Jay Villani — He’s got a knack for cool spaces and knows his way around a barbecue pit. The brains behind Salvage BBQ, Local 188 and Sonny’s, Jay Villani joins Kathleen Pierce for a cup and conversation tomorrow on the BDN Portland Facebook page at 3:15 p.m. Tune in and partake.
Free weed “isn’t what we want”, mayor claims — Ethan Strimling is less than thrilled with the marijuana give-away that took place in Monument Square during last week’s 4/20 celebrations. Marijuana activist Crash Barry’s hand-out of pot samples drew hundreds last Thursday and was legal under Maine law — although people lighting up in public wasn’t. The event didn’t draw many complaints, but Strimling said it “isn’t what we want to have happening in the middle of the city.” Incidentally, Barry was handing out pot at the same time that Strimling and City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau were announcing their clean energy goal.
Tweet of the day
From Bloomberg News White House reporter Jennifer Jacobs, because it really happened:
The Big Idea
I’m a server and I don’t need saving — Servers may not have been heard from enough in the debate over raising the tipped wage. Here’s what one had to say.
Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Jake Bleiberg at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet @JZBleiberg.