Thursday, December 5, 2013

A reporting collaboration with The Guardian

My story in today's Portland Press Herald explored a proposal by the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center revive the economy of Maine's poorest county by exempting it from state income and sales taxes.

The story was part of a collaboration with the Guardian, the London-based international news organization, which had acquired internal documents from the State Policy Network, a conservative organization for which Maine Heritage and dozens of other state-level think tanks serve as franchises. The Guardian today wrote about the national strategy the documents revealed -- a follow-up to their stories yesterday and Monday on the closely-affiliated American Legislative Exchange Council (or ALEC) which SPN, Maine Heritage, and several Maine legislators are members of. The Texas Observer also filed this story on an SPN-related initiative in that state.

The Guardian version of my story can be found here, and even includes some of my photography - something I haven't done as much of since dialing back my foreign correspondent work a few years back.

The collaboration was an enjoyable experience -- the intersection of a local and national story -- which I hope we will find occasion to repeat.


  1. I really enjoyed this article. You did a wonderful job capturing some of the local people's feeling of the Heritage group's ideas. The quote: "If it were to pass, says Jonathan Reisman, an economist at the University of Maine Machias and an associate scholar at Maine Heritage, it would encourage entrepreneurial activity, creating wealth and solving the problems associated with poverty." is a perfect example of the so-called conservative/libertarian mindset which in reality is trickle down fairy dust fairy tale that has no basis in fact. The best quotes though were the last two: "There's always been this attitude that Washington County that we can't take care of ourselves. And here we are moving forward and this comes along."
    "I'm not saying I'm against it," she adds with a smile, "but it is a little strange." From Jerry Bernier @aigberni

  2. I have long enjoyed visiting Washington Country, in fact, my first trip in 1976 as a high school student (from RI )in a resident program there made me ache to live in Maine until I finally did as an adult year many, many years later in 1998. Its natural beauty is stunning, and despite its financial poverty there is a rich caring community. Last summer, I returned to grad school to re-direct my professional path, and to my delight I began grad school in an intensive course, Ecological Perspectives of a Bioregion, based in Cobscook Bay. I allowed me to looked at Washington County from a deeper ecological perspective. In the course of writing a synthesis paper, I came across “Sound Science: Synthesizing Ecological and Socioeconomic Information about the Pugent Sound Ecosystem.” It was a report on a regional “science collaboration” in the Pacific Northwest for integrated ecosystem management that was primarily funded by NOAA. This transdisiplanary, systems thinking, sustainable ecosystem approach to the region is very impressive. Similar plans for the northeast have been on the drawing board but literally dead in the water for sometime. It struck me that Cobscook Bay in Washington County, rich in ecological resources, needs exactly this kind of process (before it is further compromised for the economic gain of outsiders). The coming together of scientists, social scientists and community stakeholders (as was done in the Pacific Northwest to create an integrated ecosystem management plan) to work together to agree on common values about what is important is critical. This is a real and very difficult –but doable – process. We cannot have it all, so to speak, and so communities best learn how to talk about the issues in our regions and collectively review community choices and make conscious decisions together. To NOT do this, means the entire bioregion remains at risk of losing control and management to outside corporate and/or political cannibals, at worse, but even domineering inside factions.
    I read your article and once more could not help but think of the many, many important ecological issues I was introduced to in Cobscook Bay last year (economically struggling families, farming families, fishing families, community-wide salmon restoration efforts, making wholeness in communities, educating children to engage in creating sustainable communities, engaging people in land stewardship of public lands, empowering a community to protect Rockweed, and more), and none are separate from the ecosystem that is Cobscook Bay. The ecosystem and an ecosystem analysis include the people in it. These are nested systems; in a sustainable world an economy serves the people within the constraints of the natural world.
    I wondered then, and more so now, what can be done to move real ecosystem synthesis forward in Cobscook Bay before the bioregion is grasped from the diversity of authentic stakeholders in Washington County, including native peoples. From Laura Sebastianelli @ wildaroundus at gmail dot com.