Monday, March 18, 2019

John Hickenlooper's time Down East in 1970


A few years ago, I was in Denver writing this POLITICO story on how the city built a metro-wide light rail system from scratch, a story that led to my interviewing then-governor (and former Denver mayor) John Hickenlooper.

He gets on the phone, hears I'm from Maine, and first thing he says is "You must know (D.L Geary Brewing founder) David Geary" (both men are micro brewing pioneers); the second is that as a teen he spent a summer volunteering at a free school in Maine. That school, it turned out, was in Robbinston and had been co-founded by Susan Tureen, who had been pushed out of her public school teaching job probably because she was married to Tom Tureen, the Passamaquoddy tribe's new attorney, in the midst of the epic land claims fight.

Now Hickenlooper is running for president, so I put a fuller story together for this week's Maine Sunday Telegram. Enjoy.

For more on the situation in Easternmost Maine in 1970, see the 29-part Press Herald series "Unsettled," especially Chapters 10 to 13.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Rep. Pingree reintroduced ocean acidification bill; this time it might pass

Ocean acidification, a potentially catastrophic threat to shellfish harvesters and the coastal communities they live in, is one of a variety of climate related risks confronting both the Gulf of Maine and Alaska.

This week, Maine US Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) and Alaska's Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) reintroduced bills in their respective chambers that would take the first steps in mitigating the problem by directing federal authorities to identify exactly where the greatest risks and gaps in knowledge are. With Democrats in control of the House, Pingree told me she's pretty upbeat the measures might become law.

I have the story in yesterday's Portland Press Herald.

For more context on the problem, start with this series.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Frederick Douglass and "Allender's Jake": a research note

There are very few people who will be interested in this post, but for the few among you who study Frederick Douglass, a small research discovery.

Jake Ellis -- aka "Allender's Jake", aka William Dixon -- the fugitive slave Douglass encountered on his first day of freedom in New York City, the one who warned him about slave catchers and who was at the center of a years-long legal battle that pulled in underground railroad conductor David Riggles -- was not the property of Dr. Joseph Allender, as Blassimgame et al. suggested in the footnotes to their (excellent) annotated edition of My Bondage, My Freedom.

Period newspaper accounts of Ellis's trip explicitly say Ellis was the property of "Dr. William T. Alexander" of Baltimore. They got the name wrong. This would be William T. Allender (1807-1880), Dr. Alexander's son.

That is all. You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.


Friday, February 15, 2019

Speaking on American Nations / American Character, Bath, Maine, Mar. 2

I'm pleased to be speaking about North American regionalism, the central political argument it has fostered over the past 400 years, how it interacts with Trumpism, and the path forward to shoring up the world's oldest liberal democracy.... all on March 2nd at the Patten Free Library in Bath, Maine.

The event, based on American Nations and American Character, kicks off at 10:30 am and is free and open to the public. More details here.

My next American Character talk is at the HR Policy Association annual meeting in Orlando later in March, but that one isn't open to the public at large.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Maine poised to finally respond to Gulf of Maine climate threats


With Gov. Paul LePage gone and Democrats in complete control of state government, Maine appears poised to finally confront climate change threats to the state, including the implement of key recommendations of a bipartisan ocean acidification commission that wrapped up its work back in 2014.

I report on these developments in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram.

The Gulf of Maine is the second fastest warming part of the world's oceans, with far-ranging implications for Maine fisheries, the economy, and the ecosystem -- all this the subject of my 2015 Press Herald series "Mayday," which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize that year. Since then, Maine lawmakers have failed to respond, Congress and the Trump administration have refused to act, and the Gulf has continued to experience near-record temperatures.

For further background on the crises facing the world's oceans, consider my first book, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas, which took me from Antarctica to Micronesia, with Belize, Newfoundland, Louisiana and the Black Sea in between.

[Update, 3/15/19: Promising developments for ocean acidification bill at federal level as well.]

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Maine: public records withheld by LePage may soon see light of day

Maine has a notoriously weak public records law, one lacking in meaningful enforcement provisions. The result: bad actors in state government are able to defy the intent of the law and never turn over records. The Maine Warden Service provided one infamous example of sustained stonewalling a few years back, and the system demonstrated it was impotent to compel compliance. Governor Paul LePage provided another, failing to turn over the receipts for his emolument clause-relevant stay (or stays) at Donald Trump's Washington DC hotel.

But with the change of administrations, Mainers may finally see some of the results of some long suppressed requests under Maine's Freedom of Access Act. In Monday's Portland Press Herald I report on the hows and whys of this, and talk to experts about the shortcomings of Maine's FOAA and how it might be rectified.

Last week I reported on another public records problem: many older ones have likely been lost as information technology staffers purged servers.

[Update, 3/15/19: The documents were finally released to my intrepid Press Herald colleagues Kevin Miller and Scott Thistle, who reported on their content here.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Ten years of World Wide Woodard

Happy 2019 everyone, and happy birthday to this blog, which started 10 years ago today with this post from Reykjavik, where I was starting a reporting trip in the wake of that country's near-total (but ultimately short-lived) financial meltdown in the midst of the 2008 economic crisis.



Reflecting on the decade recorded on this blog, the major changes: (a) parenthood and (b) a not unrelated shift away from primarily foreign correspondent work to North American coverage; (c) becoming a staffer at Maine's largest newspaper (where we won a big award and was a finalist for another); (d) the writing, completion, publication, and dissemination of American Nations and its successor, American Character; (e) the continued life of Republic of Pirates, via an NBC television show, an Ubisoft video game, and a variety of foreign translations; and (f) a reduction in the frequency and geographical scope of my travels -- not-so-worldwide Woodard, as the decade turned out!

Here's to an interesting second decade.