Report: Portland taxpayers stuck paying thousands while massive project stalls

There’s a lot to talk about in Portland tonight.

If you haven’t seen the headlines yet, the Portland Press Herald’s Randy Billings has an update on that big Midtown project, once described as a transformative proposal that would bring hundreds of residential units, parking spaces and commercial storefronts to Bayside, but which now seems stuck in a holding pattern while city taxpayers cover interest payments.

Here at the BDN, Jake Bleiberg has more from Long Creek Youth Development Center. In fact, let’s get right into that.

What we’re talking about

The Maine youth prison lays off nearly half of its teachers — The BDN’s Bleiberg is continuing to cover the situation at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, where the facility laid off six teachers and an assistant principal, leaving no instructors on hand who are qualified to teach math, art or physical education. Meanwhile, prison officials have hired the Commissioner of Corrections’ daughter to study bullying, something which could arguably be reduced by having more educators.

Gov. LePage calls the Legislature ‘the laziest bunch I’ve ever seen — Fairly standard political discourse in Augusta. These words of encouragement come as lawmakers try to reach agreement on a two-year state budget before July 1 to avoid a government shutdown. LePage’s finance commissioner added to the budgetary drama today with his surprise resignation.

How a 34-year-old hot dog cart has survived Portland’s fancy food explosion — Mark’s Hotdogs has been a mainstay of the Old Port since 1983, long before the city became a trendy culinary destination. The BDN’s Kathleen Pierce and Troy R. Bennett asked Mark and his customers about his secret to longevity. The quick version? Hot dogs are fast, inexpensive and reliable. And Mark’s a great guy.

Remember that huge Midtown project planned for Bayside? — The Portland Press Herald’s Billings reports that the developers have yet to file for applications to begin building a parking garage at the 3.25-acre Somerset Street lot, where the Federated Cos. first proposed a massive, multi-use project in 2011. And as the clock ticks away toward the expiration of the project’s site plan approval in March 2018, city taxpayers have been left paying nearly $180,000 in interest on a federal loan meant to help finance part of the project.

It’s a tough time to be a retail store in Maine, regardless of size — The 120,000-square-foot Bon-Ton department store, which has been an anchor at the Maine Mall in South Portland since 2013, will close in August, offering severance pay for the 55 employees who lose their jobs as a result. Up the highway in Freeport, local women’s clothing boutique Sashay’s has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and plans to liquidate its assets to pay down more than $180,000 in debt.

The Attorney General’s Office has denied hiding evidence and coercing a key witness… in the 1992 trial that led to the murder conviction of Anthony Sanborn. Sanborn’s attorney has been trying to get his conviction thrown out.

Tweet of the day

From WGME, CBS 13’s Dan Lampariello:

And although Dan’s message is still technically true when this newsletter is published, that time is running out. So hurry, if you haven’t voted yet. Here’s what you’re voting on in Portland – primarily, the $105 million school budget – if you need a quick primer before rushing to the polls before they close.

The Big Idea

Is it possible to remember committing murder when you didn’t? — Ada JoAnn Taylor confessed to killing an elderly woman in Nebraska in 1989, and says she remembers the crime vividly. The only hitch is that DNA evidence has since absolved her. The case, as explained here in The New Yorker, provides a cautionary tale about the frailty and reliability of human memory.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Jake Bleiberg at, or tweet @JZBleiberg.

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