In our last episode, you may remember that a Portland City Council committee was considering a ban on smoking in restaurants' outdoor seating areas. Nothing new to report on that, I'm afraid, but fans of bans still have plenty to cheer about.
Let's start with skateboarding. According to the Portland Press Herald, a Portland council committee has been asked to consider outlawing the activity in the downtown area, particularly on Exchange Street in the Old Port,
where boarders like to show off for tourists. So far, councilors are resisting that move, instead urging police to ticket those violating traffic laws by doing things like skating the wrong way on a one-way street. "They're picking on skateboarders," one ticketed youth complained. Portland used to have a park just for boarding on Marginal Way, but closed it last year to make way for economic development. A new park in Libbytown may open next year if the money to build can be found.
Next up on the list of things that need banning: bees. South Berwick is the latest Maine town considering how to regulate the little buggers. South Portland and Westbrook already have ordinances limiting how many hives a property owner can have and where they can be placed.
Both those laws were passed after the beekeepers' neighbors complained about … I dunno, sticky fingerprints from the honey, I guess. Maine has about 1,000 commercial and hobbyist beekeepers. Maybe they should follow the lead of skateboarders and establish parks where the practice would be legal.Colby College in Waterville is trying to figure out what to do about an annual event called Senior Champagne on the Steps
, during which seniors celebrate the end of their classes by boozing to excess. This year, 20 student ended up in emergency rooms suffering from alcohol poisoning, and there were also incidents of vandalism. The Morning Sentinel's story never really answers the question of why Colby doesn't just prohibit the practice, but it does contain this quote full of questionable assertions by Paul Berkner, the medical director of the college's health center: "Drinking is more prevalent in New England; it's more prevalent in rural places. And it's also related to money. Poor people don't tend to binge-drink as much."
If anything is going to induce binge drinking in poverty-stricken Mainers, it's probably the price of heating oil. It's already topped four bucks a gallon in the Bangor area
. Hidden benefit: That should send a chill through anyone who had trouble paying the heating bill last winter, thereby making the summer a little cooler. In Lewiston, the City Council reacted to the price surge by voting to allow residents to join in its municipal oil-buying program, a move that may allow ordinary citizens to get a better per-gallon rate.
Or not. Details are still being worked out, and it's not clear how the program, which one oil executive likened to collective buying in "Soviet Russia," will work.
Buying, collective or otherwise, is not on the agenda for most Mainers, when they receive their federal stimulus checks.
According to a survey by the Market Decisions research firm, one third of respondents plan to save the money, one third plan to pay bills (energy bills were the most-mentioned kind) and just 17 percent were planning spending sprees. "This is catch-up money," said one of the pollsters, "not stimulus money."
Which is not to say nothing is selling in Maine. Atlantic National Holdings. a company associated with the redevelopment of Portland's Bayside area, is buying the vacant Portland Public Market
and will likely convert it to office space. The market, built by the non-profit Libra Foundation to facilitate the selling of locally grown agricultural products, has been vacant for over two years. Plans to have it become part of the Portland Public Library fell apart last year after voters rejected the idea. The building originally cost more than $4 million to construct, but is selling for about $1.9 million.
In Lewiston, the city has a verbal agreement to sell the Colisee, which is the fancy name it gave the former Central Maine Youth Center when it took it over in 2004. The buyer is Firland Management, a Veazie-based company that operates ice arenas in Michigan, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and Louisiana
. The price has yet to be disclosed, but the city owes $5.7 million for the building and recent improvements, and has been covering budget shortfalls in its operation each year, last year writing a check for $650,000.
Here are some stories that didn't get banned, but they did get shrunk.Portland Police Chief Tim Burton
is a finalist to become the new chief in Odessa, Texas. Burton has been Portland's top cop for a little more than two years.The Maine Turnpike Authority is reconsidering its decision to relocate the York toll plaza
and may build a new one on the current site. How do York citizens feel about that? On May 17, 383 of them voted in an advisory referendum to move the plaza elsewhere, while 3,614 wanted it to stay put.
Jonesing for steamers or fried clams? Better not delay if you don't want to pay premium prices. Because of red tide, the Maine coast is already closed to harvesting shellfish from the New Hampshire border to Pemaquid Point.
And scientists are predicting the algae will cause a higher-than-average number of closures all along the coast this summer.
And the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville has chosen John Turturro
to receive its coveted (but oddly named) Mid-Life Achievement Award. Turturro, whose movies include "The Big Lebowski," "Quiz Show" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" will accept the honor during festivities scheduled for July 11-20.
No word yet as to whether any films worth banning will be shown. Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.