Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Worst year on record for puffin chicks at Gulf of Maine's largest colony

Atlantic puffins have been facing challenges as the Gulf of Maine has continued to warm in the past decade. The birds, which breed in several colonies off the Maine coast, must find fish to bring back to their chicks in their burrows. If the right food can't be found, the chicks will starve.

In yesterday's Portland Press Herald,  reported the sad news that the largest colony in the Gulf of Maine -- at Machias Seal Island -- this summer experienced the worst such food famine in the 31 years researchers have been tracking the birds there. The smaller colonies off midcoast Maine -- including Eastern Egg Rock -- fared better.

For broader context, we covered the puffins' problems in 2012-2015 in "Mayday", the Press Herald's six-part series on climate change in the Gulf of Maine, which was a finalist for this year's Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Maine: Democrats have big fundraising advantage in battle for legislature

Here in Maine, the most important electoral issue to be resolved in November -- aside from who will be the President of the United States -- is which party will control the two houses of the state legislature. Currently Democrats control the House, while Republicans have the Senate and the governor's mansion.

There isn't any polling of state legislative races, so voters usually get to surprise everyone each election day. But for those who can't wait, one can always track the money race. In Saturday's Portland Press Herald I have this story on the fundraising situation for the two parties' primary legislative war chests.

Bottom line: Democrats currently have a roughly two-to-one advantage in this regard, mostly because they've received big contributions from the national party (and the Republicans have not.) Even more interesting for politicos is where the money comes from and, perhaps, who the respective parties owe one to.

I last wrote about Maine political finance last month, with this Press Herald story on the "leadership PACs" of Maine legislators and who gives to them.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

How Milwaukee shook off the rust

A lot of cities have worked to repurpose their manufacturing districts. Milwaukee has doubled-down on the largest of theirs, creating a model for what the 21st century industrial park might look like. Mixing recreational, environmental, and manufacturing uses, the Menomonee Valley has filled with tenants from near and far. It's the topic of my latest installment in Politico's "What Works" series, which posted Thursday night.

This is my sixth full-length "What Works" piece this year. The others were on how Des Moines went from dull to cool; how Manchester, New Hampshire turned its vast 19th century millyard to spinning high-tech gold; on how Denver built its game-changing light rail system, only to discover its most powerful effects were not what they'd expected; how Cincinnati transformed "America's most dangerous neighborhood"; and how Philadelphia repurposed a 1200 acre former naval base. In addition, last week -- on the occasion of the Republican National Convention -- I had this shorter story on how Cleveland revamped its long-neglected Public Square.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Talking New England identity with WNPR's NEXT

WNPR, the Hartford-based flagship of Connecticut Public Radio, has launched a new show on New England. NEXT, which will roll out under the auspices of public radio's New England reporting collaborative, will eventually be syndicated throughout the region.

I was very pleased to be a part of their inaugural episode, talking about the origins of New England's identity, its expansion across a swath of the continent, and the conflicts it has with neighboring cultures, like the Dutch-founded region around what is now New York City, or the Scots-Irish influenced Greater Appalachian region. Readers of American Nations, American Character, and Lobster Coast will recognize much of what we spoke about.

The episode premiered on the stations of Connecticut public radio on Thursday afternoon and is available online now. (My segment starts at 19:20.) It also airs:

On New Hampshire Public Radio today, Aug. 6, at 10 pm.

On Vermont Public Radio Sunday, Aug. 7, at noon.

On the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network again Sunday, Aug. 7, at 6 pm.

Thanks to producer Andrea Muraskin and host John Dankosky for having me on.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Talking about the crisis in the oceans and the Gulf of Maine, Damariscotta, Aug. 3

I'm speaking about the crisis in the world's oceans and the Gulf of Maine at the annual meeting of the Damariscotta River Association in Damariscotta, Maine this Wednesday, August 3rd. I've just learned, via this article in the Boothbay Register, that the event (a desert potluck) is open to the public, but you need to RSVP.

The event kicks off at 7pm. My talk keys off my first book, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas (which took me all over the world) and my recent Portland Press Herald series, "Mayday", in how climate change is effecting the Gulf of Maine (which was a finalist for this year's Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

At EDMC, former Maine governor McKernan had a questionable legacy

I did a deep dive on former Maine Governor John McKernan's legacy as CEO and board chair of Education Management Corporation, or EDMC, the for-profit college network that ran afoul of the US Department of Justice, multiple state attorneys general, and the inspector general of the US Department of Education.

Here's what I learned, in today's Maine Sunday Telegram. There's also a sidebar.

McKernan was governor of Maine from 1987 to 1995 and is married to Sen. Olympia Snowe.

Friday, July 29, 2016

On Obama talking up his Scots-Irish heritage at the DNC

In his speech at the Democratic National Convention this week, President Obama spoke about his Scots-Irish roots and the values of that culture, which includes many on his mother's side. Why talk about the Scots-Irish in a major address in the midst of a critical election year? The Washington Post's Frances Stead Sellers is on it.

I spoke with Sellers yesterday about the Scots-Irish legacy, influence, and importance to our elections, and you can read the article that resulted here. (Thanks to the Post for including the American Nations map.)

I've written on this theme in, of course, American Nations and American Character, but also for Washington Monthly, where I discussed Obama's "Greater Appalachia Problem" ahead of the last election.