City Council votes to create office to help immigrants find jobs

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight the City Council voted to create an office to help new Mainers; we check in with one of Maine’s first Syrian refugees since the civil war; and Bernie Sanders did not win an electoral vote in Maine. Happy last week before Christmas. Let’s do this.   

What we’re talking about

The City Council voted to create office to help immigrants find jobsJake Bleiberg reports that the next step is finding the money to pay for the whole thing:

Councilors voted to establish the Office of Economic Opportunity in their final scheduled meeting of the year, after months of deliberation and meetings with the city’s various immigrant communities. The new bureau aims to help new Mainers and those who may face discrimination in the labor market find work and job training — but those goals still depend on the city finding more than $165,000 in grant funding. … 

Including salaries, the office will have a start-up budget of nearly $260,000, but the city has allocated funds for less than half that amount. More than $165,000 of the new office’s budget is meant to come from grants, according to the memorandum sent to the full council by the Economic Development Committee. No grants have yet been obtained for this purpose. …

“Even if we couldn’t find all the grant funding we want to, this is a program [budget] that the city could step into if necessary,” said Justin Costa, who sat on the Economic Development Committee as it developed the new office.

5 months after arriving, here’s how some of Maine’s first Syrian refugees are doing — Jake checks back in with Nadir Alzoubi — whom he profiled earlier in the year. He and his family are among the first Syrian refugees settled in Maine since that country’s civil war began.

Jake writes:

Four nights a week, Nadir Alzoubi walks to an Old Port restaurant to scrub dishes.

It’s a familiar routine that stands in stark contrast to the chaos that led him here. As of Monday, it has been four years since Alzoubi and his then-pregnant wife Jamila fled Syria, looking for a safe place for their third child to be born. They had a fourth kid while struggling to get enough to eat in Jordan and in July were among the first Syrian refugees to be resettled in Maine since the outbreak of the county’s civil war.

Four months into their new life in Portland, the family is beginning to settle into a predictable routine, despite the divisive politics of immigration in America.

The definitive guide to all the people maybe possibly running for governor ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ — Adam Lee, of Cumberland, chairman of Lee Auto Malls, and former Maine Senate President Justin Alfond, of Portland, are both leaning yes.  

Sanders vote thwarted, but Maine still makes history with Electoral College vote — Trump secured his electoral college win today. Christopher Cousins reports what happened in Maine:

Hullabaloo about whether any of Maine’s four Electoral College electors would defy the will of Election Day voters fizzled Monday afternoon at the State House when three electors voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton and one for President-elect Donald Trump.

In the weeks since Trump’s Election Day surprise victory, rumors swirled that some Republican electors would vote against the New York billionaire. In Maine, the focus shifted Monday morning to Democrats after elector David Bright announced he would cast his ballot for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who beat Clinton in the state’s Democratic caucuses in March.

During Maine’s Electoral College voting Monday afternoon at the State House, Bright cast a secret-ballot vote for Sanders but was ruled out of order by Maine Electoral College President Betty Johnson. When the ballots were recast, the tally was three for Clinton and one for Trump 

It’s cold. Let’s eat soup.  — BDN Maine blogger Sarah Gelber picks her favorite soups from around Maine to help warm up on days like this. I find no fault in her selection. (By the way, I checked with features editor Sarah Walker Caron, and apparently chowders and pho are both technically soups.)

Quote of the day

“Meat can be intimidating for millennials.” —  Hannaford President Mike Vail, speaking to the Press Herald’s J. Craig Anderson. Here’s the context, but it’s arguably better without it.  

Tweet of the day

From Sarah Jeong. This actually makes sense.

Screen Shot 2016-12-19 at 7.37.34 PM


The Big Idea 

In case you were too ashamed to ask, here’s why we have the electoral college — Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times writes:

[President-elect Donald] Trump was more popular in states that control more electoral votes. That’s the system. Regular Americans don’t get a direct say in who becomes president, and not all Americans’ votes are equal.

That’s the very intent of the electoral college, albeit a design forged from an 18th-century political struggle over how to balance freedom and slavery, elitism and populism, independence and accountability.

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 moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.