Friday, April 23, 2010

Maine: News of Note, April 23 edition

For Mainers, a few items of note to be aware of:

Trader Joe's Secret Helpers: Once again, an important story right in our backyard has been broken by an out-of-state newspaper. While the Press Herald and Portland's elected officials have been in rapture over news that grocer Trader Joe's is coming to town, somebody over at The Christian Science Monitor was digging into how the chain seized control of the old Wild Oats property at below market rates with the eyebrow-raising assistance of the Federal Trade Commission. The story should be mandatory reading for local politicos and newspaper editors.

Shock and Awe Spending by Mercury Contaminator: The people of Orrington are voting today on whether to endorse a proposal by allowing a Missouri-based chemical manufacturer to avoid a full clean-up of mercury contamination at an abandoned plant on the shores of the Penobscot River. Needless to say, the manufacturer has been spending lavishly to influence the town's two thousand or so voters. Mike Tipping has more, as does MPBN's Susan Sharon. [UPDATE, 4/24/10: Residents narrowly endorsed the chemical company's proposal for an incomplete cleanup.]

Exposing Sleaze: The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has been digging around the muck in Augusta, where curious deals between present and former politicos often have a way of quietly enriching the latter. This week's report reveals how the head of Baldacci's Public Utilities Commission accepted the senior vice presidency of generating utility First Wind while still on the public payroll, and went to work for them immediately the following month. His compensation at First Wind? $1.3 million in 2009, including $658,000 in stock equity.

As the report shows, Kurt Adams appears to have received his equity shares while still serving as the chief regulator for the industry, which may have been illegal. But even if no laws were broken, such instantaneous revolving door relationships between government and industry undermine the integrity all parties involved.

There are far too many stories like this one waiting to be told.

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