Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Here’s the news.
What we’re talking about
Here’s a really telling paragraph from the Press Herald’s story today on the lack of space in the city’s shelter for homeless families:
With all the apartments at the family shelter and all three hotel rooms filled, the city has housed five families totaling 25 individuals – 15 of them under age 16 – in a downstairs area of the Chestnut Street family shelter or in the lobby of the city’s General Assistance offices. Children and juveniles are provided mats or cots, but others are forced to sleep in seats.
The paper reports that there is a “record demand” for space in the Chestnut Street shelter as more families from central Africa arrive in Portland. The city meanwhile is grappling with a housing crisis that’s making it harder for people currently living in shelters to get apartments.
One month in, here’s how the new Nova Scotia ferry is doing — Jake Bleiberg reports:
Early-season ridership on the Maine-Nova Scotia ferry is on the upswing but still well below capacity, according to passenger counts released this week by Bay Ferries Limited, the new operator of the previously troubled line.
Bay Ferries restarted the service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, with a new, faster ship one month ago, after the last operator, Nova Star Cruises, filed for bankruptcy in Canada this April, following two years of falling far short of its projected passenger counts.
Between June 15 and June 22, the ferry shuttled an average of 181 passengers and 78 automobiles back and forth between Maine and Canada, according to the company. From June 23 to June 30, the daily averages were 285 passengers and 97 cars and trucks, and from July 1 to July 7, the daily averages were 307 people and 106 vehicles.
A total of the Bay Ferries’ passenger averages suggests it moved 5,877 passengers and 2,142 vehicles in 23 days of operation, though the actual count may vary slightly.
Although it’s early, Greg Mitchell, director of Portland’s economic development department, said these numbers are promising for the city, which charges a head tax for passengers and vehicles. Portland makes $2 per person for the first 60,000 passengers and $3.50 per person after that, according to Mitchell. Plus, $3 per vehicle for the first 60,000 cars and small trucks and $5 per vehicle after that.
“I was very encouraged to see the steady increase in activity, recognizing that June is not peak season,” Mitchell said.
The high-speed catamaran was reported to have a capacity of 866 passengers and 282 vehicles when it originally was used as a ferry in Hawaii. However, the ship has undergone renovation, and the company website states it now can carry 700 passengers and 200 vehicles.
By either count, the catamaran is considerably smaller than the ship that had been used by Nova Star Cruises, which failed to pay back millions of dollars in debt after missing its goal of carrying 100,000 passengers per year by a wide margin. The company carried 59,000 passengers in 2014 and 52,000 in 2015.
Bay Ferries is required to release monthly passenger counts to Portland’s city government, but had not originally intended to make the early counts public. It decided to do so to forestall “a lot of damaging discussion” about the business, CEO Mark MacDonald said in a statement emailed to BDN Portland by an employee, referencing a political squabble in Nova Scotia.
“We made known our opinion on what was best for the business, which was that we collectively not focus on short term numbers and give the business a chance to gain traction,” MacDonald stated. “We thought it best to release some information in the hopes that we can return focus to where it should be — on building back this business.”
The company also declined to make projections about how many passengers it hopes to carry this year, though it will release another set of averages in August, following peak tourist season.
Portland has a stake in seeing the venture go well. The Portland Development Corp. is owed $62,000 by the bankrupt Nova Star Cruises and expects to make $150,000 per year from leasing port space to Bay Ferries.
How a bike class is helping refugees to get around Portland — Caroline Losneck reports for Marketplace on a class taught out of Portland Gear Hub that’s a big help to people who might need a bike to get around the city.
Westbrook police now have someone dedicated to people struggling with addiction — WCSH-TV reports that Shelby Briggs was hired to “[develop] recovery and treatment resources” in Westbrook.
It follows the Portland Police Department’s hiring of Oliver Bradeen, who works with city police to respond to reports of people who might be struggling with drugs.
As Seth Koenig reported in February: “The goal of the department’s new Law Enforcement Addiction Advocacy Program is to help put more people battling substance use disorders in counseling or treatment programs than in jail. It’s modeled in part after the department’s longstanding mental health co-responder program, in which trained civilian mental health experts are embedded alongside officers responding to cases in which mental illness is considered a factor.
“‘The police officer is walking in the door with a civilian subject matter expert,’ the chief said. ‘We go in together as a team.’”
LePage says he’s trying to close methadone clinics — Christopher Cousins reports on LePage’s recent comments:
“‘I’ve been trying to close down methadone clinics since I’ve been governor,’ said LePage during his weekly radio appearance on WVOM. ‘When it comes to methadone, every expert I’ve talked to says there’s no clinical aspect to it. … It’s no help. It has to be in a program that’s monitored by clinicians.’”
Counterpoint: The BDN’s editorial board lays out some medical facts from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and concludes: “LePage is making up his own facts and using them to undermine the very mode of treatment that could be saving lives. If he were a doctor, his actions would be akin to malpractice.”
Deeper: The BDN’s Erin Rhoda spent more than two years following the path of a young Maine man who was addicted to heroin.
‘The largest survey of transgender people yet shows the dangers of bathroom hysteria’ — Vox lays out the results of a recent survey of 28,000 people who are transgender:
It is now backed by hard evidence: For transgender people, bathrooms are a source of real, physical harm.
59% have avoided bathrooms in the last year because they feared confrontations in public restrooms at work, at school, or in other places.
12% report that they have been harassed, attacked, or sexually assaulted in a bathroom in the last year.
31% have avoided drinking or eating so that they did not need to use the restroom in the last year.
24% report that someone told them they were using the wrong restroom or questioned their presence in the restroom in the last year.
9% report being denied access to the appropriate restroom in the last year.
8% report having a kidney or urinary tract infection, or another kidney-related medical issue, from avoiding restrooms in the last year.
The connection between educated millennials and city-state clashes — From Pew: “From minimum wage hikes to bans on plastic bags, fierce city-state clashes are erupting in places where educated millennials make up a much larger percentage of the urban population than they do in the state as a whole.”
Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at email@example.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.
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