Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight, House leaders called off a vote on the health care plan; the head of Long Creek was placed on leave; and strange white stuff appears to be falling from the sky.
What we’re talking about
Head of Long Creek put on leave amid investigation — The superintendent of the Long Creek Youth Development Center was put on administrative leave earlier this week, we first reported this morning. The Department of Corrections would not say why Jeff Merrill II was taken off his job heading the youth prison because the situation is being investigated. “That is an active investigation, so I am not allowed to speak about it,” Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick said. Merrill was put on leave following several months of controversy for the South Portland prison. Here’s what’s has happened there, starting from last fall:
- A 16-year-old transgender boy, Charles Maisie Knowles, strangled himself to death while on suicide watch at Long Creek;
- Knowles’ mother said he wasn’t getting appropriate mental health care because he was being detained at the prison awaiting trial rather than as a committed prisoner — an allegation Fitzpatrick has denied;
- The attorney general found nothing suspicious in Knowles’ death and the department hired an outside expert to review its suicide prevention policy;
- Official reports, obtained by BDN Portland, revealed a persistent pattern of self-harm among young people at Long Creek — including a second suicide attempt — and the prison’s inability to treat the severely mentally ill inmates it is increasingly required to house;
- Three 18-year-old inmates escaped from a Long Creek camping trip and stole an SUV before being arrested. — Jake Bleiberg
Auditors investigating claims of missing Bath Iron Works union funds — Another good scoop from Beth Brogan: “Auditors from the Grand Lodge of the international machinists’ union are investigating allegations of missing funds at Local S6 of the machinists’ union, the largest union at Bath Iron Works.”
More than 100 asylum seekers may lose General Assistance — Some asylum seekers in Portland may lose Maine’s most basic welfare support when a new law that cuts off General Assistance benefits after 24 months comes into effect July 1, the Press Herald’s Randy Billings reports. Portland officials said that as many as 180 asylum seekers, who enter the country legally, could lose aid next year and were uncertain whether federal law would block Portland from continuing to pay out the benefits from its own coffers. “We’re trying to figure out whether the city will have the legal authority to cover people who fall within this 24-month limit, even if the city wanted to,” City Manager Jon Jennings said. — Jake Bleiberg
Getting around Woodfords could be a pain starting next week — Starting Monday, the city will close off Clifton Street between Melrose and Woodford streets for about two weeks to put in a new storm drain. It will still be open to local traffic. And the next day the city will shut down traffic to non-residents on Woodford Street between Forest and Vannah avenues to install sewer, storm drain, water and gas utilities. That work will take several months, the city said. Here’s where traffic will be shut down:
Scarborough Downs might have a buyer — Melanie Sochan of the Forecaster reports:
A new investment group says it has an agreement to acquire Scarborough Downs for an undisclosed amount of money.
A feasibility study will be done to see whether harness racing should continue, according to Cohasset, Massachusetts, developer Thomas Powers, who is one of the investors. …
The property, totalling 480 acres off Route 1, could be developed into a “mixed-use, live, work and play” project, Powers said. He said plans are “very preliminary” and there are no more specific details.
Quote of the day
“Doing big things is hard.” — Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) in his press conference after pulling the American Health Care Act.
Tweet of the day
Slow clap to Byron Tau for this tweet:
The Big Idea
‘Trump’s reputation as a negotiator just took a hit’ — Callum Borchers (great name!) writes in the Washington Post: “A single legislative failure does not erase the reputation Trump built over several decades, but it is a blow that means his ability to translate business-world tactics to governing remains unproven.”
Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet @dsmacleod.