LePage to pay Portland a visit

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight LePage is coming to town; we bring you the latest twist in Portland’s BLM saga; and meet the city’s first absentee landlord.

What we’re talking about

LePage is coming to Portland — In an event that the university and governor’s office tell me is absolutely, positively not a town hall, Gov. Paul LePage will be giving a talk and taking questions at the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus on April 18. The event will run from 6 to 7 p.m. and is hosted by a conservative student group that in February brought controversial state Rep. Lawrence Lockman, R-Amherst, to speak at USM. Student organizer Benjamin Bussiere told BDN Portland that he invited the politicians to USM to counteract what he sees as the repression of conservative views on campus. Bussiere hopes LePage’s visit will be more civil than Lockman’s was, but he’s expecting protesters. 

Judge recuses himself from Black Lives Matter hearing — In a seldom seen move Monday, a Maine judge recused himself from ruling in a hearing over reinstating criminal charges against 17 Black Lives Matter protesters arrested last summer. Retired Superior Court Justice Paul Fritzsche’s decision to step down followed a testy exchange with defense attorney Tom Hallett and caught both sides of the case off guard. It’s the latest twist in the already unusual legal proceedings that have unfolded since Portland police arrested 18 protesters who shut down an otherwise busy downtown intersection for hours last July as a show of solidarity with black men killed by police across the county.

Portland’s very first absentee landlord — BDN Portland’s Troy R. Bennett brings you the tale of Christopher Levett who arrived in Portland in 1623 and promptly turned around:

Portland’s first European property owner arrived at the tail end of 1623. He made friends with Native Americans here and named the Fore River after himself. Then, he built a fortified house on an island in the harbor. Leaving 10 men behind to look after his stuff, he sailed back to England the following summer. That made him Portland’s first absentee landlord, too.

He never saw Casco Bay again and nobody knows what happened to the men he left behind.

Tent fire kills homeless man near I-295 — Early Monday a motorist on Interstate 295 noticed a blaze in the woods and called 9-11 leading first responders to find a grizzly scene, BDN’s Nok-Noi Ricker reports. “It was a tent that a person had been living in that was on fire,” said Maine fire marshal Sgt. Ken Grimes. The tent was “completely consumed by the fire,” leaving officials unable to provide any description of the man who burned to death inside. Found at the scene were a red Schwinn bicycle, black Cabela’s jacket and black knit hat.  

Tickets on sale for Portland Food Launch and Fest  — More details have been revealed on the brand new Portland Food Launch & Festival on June 22 at Thompson’s Point. The one-day celebration of food features education by day and a creative food festival by night. Plus craft beer and live music. What’s not to like? “We are designing an event that allows the public to come in and get a taste of the local creative economy. It will be a true celebration bringing together food, music, and art,” said Eric Holstein, co-founder of Fork Food Lab, who is partnering with Greater Portland Council of Governments and Norway Savings Bank on the shindig. Tickets, from $10 to $25, can be purchased here. — Kathleen Pierce

Let’s go glamping — This should strike fear in the hearts of backwoods guides everywhere. Soon you can camp in Maine in five-star luxury. Only in Kennebunkport. Boston Magazine has a sneak peak at the glamourous camping park, a trend that we hoped would have skipped Maine for good. — Kathleen Pierce

The return of Col. Johnny’s Sleep Out Bar-B-Que Spaghetti — A staple of Portland’s early funky food and classic country music scene in the 1990s, Uncle Billy’s Bar-B-Que left town some years ago. It was a loss to lovers of tangy menu items, like Col. Johnny’s Spaghetti, and connoisseurs of vintage black velvet paintings. But there may be a glimmer of hope. Owner and chef Jonathan St. Laurent has revived Uncle Billy’s Facebook page in recent weeks and is promising to reopen somewhere, sometime soon. Only time will tell but he has promised to make it, “mo bettah and mo yummy.” Oink, oink to that. — Troy R. Bennett

Tweet of the day

From David Chen, because we’re pretty sure Portland is going to have one soon:

The Big Idea

Going nuclear — It looks like the Senate Democrats are going to filibuster President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, a move that will likely lead the Republicans to use the “nuclear option” and change the Senate as we know it. Vox’s Andrew Prokop explains what the heck all that means.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Jake Bleiberg at jbleiberg@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @JZBLeiberg.

If someone forwarded you this newsletter, click here to sign up. Or just text PORTLAND to 66866. As always, like BDN Portland on Facebook for more local coverage.