SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Nov. 7, 2020 – It’s not exactly the most propitious time of the year to open a new restaurant on the Quietside but the owners of Hearth&Harbor next to the library at 336 Main Street are willing to give it a go after working behind veiled windows covered by newspapers since summer.
QSJ was dubious last summer when they promised they would open in 2020 but apparently they will.
Starting Nov. 11, they will offer takeout and work their way eventually to indoor dining. The restaurant will be open year-round, the owners said, joining Sips as the two year-round establishments. Drydock Cafe’s last day is today Nov. 7. Rogue Cafe has been opening three nights in previous winters but have not announced its intentions this year.
Nonetheless, H&H will be a welcome oasis in the barren winter of MDI. Even in Bar Harbor, the offerings are sparse and unpredictable. One good ice storm could drive an owner to hibernate in Florida.
Hearth&Harbor sent me its menu which is posted here. If the clam pie is anything remotely close to Pepe’s in New Haven I shall be ordering it on a weekly basis.
The centerpiece of H&H is a beautiful pizza oven made with special tiles which were fired with silt from the Rhone Valley in France.
Pizzas will be 12 inches and start around $12 apiece.
Two restaurants on MDI have popularized this concept – Blaze and Sweet Pea Cafe.
SOMESVILLE, Nov. 6, 2020 – At least we can be grateful we didn’t have a tortured week of Ranked Choice vote counting.
In Van Buren, Maine, they probably already have forgotten there was an election four days ago, as hardened residents in the town bordering Canada go about the business of preparing for the onset of winter before they can see signs of thawing in June.
On Tuesday, citizens of Van Buren in the very north central part of Aroostook County gave Joe Biden a 471-415 victory and then split the ticket to give Susan Collins a resounding 520-322 win.
A five-hour drive due south on I-95, the Town of Tremont on Mount Desert island voted 590-422 for Joe Biden and 489-467 for Susan Collins, the only town on heavily Democratic MDI to do so.
Across Maine and especially the vast rural northern part of Maine where Susan Collins cut her teeth as a young political aide and then worked her way up the food chain to be elected to the Senate in 1996, people are loyal to people who remind them of themselves, to conduct business according to their provincial ethos. The flip side is their mistrust of folks “from away” – a polite and quaint aphorism tinged with geographic chauvinism. In this case, it bore serious consequences.
This silent code is revered in the rural sector of the “two Maines” where household income is significantly lower than that of the southern and more dense region. And where formal education is lower. Colin Woodard, the renowned Portland Press Herald journalist, compared rural Maine to that of Kentucky.
Collins grew up in Caribou, a half hour from Van Buren. Every town within 45 minutes of Caribou that voted for Joe Biden also voted for Collins – Madawaska, Wallagras, St. Francis, Madawaska Lake Township, Westmanland, Rogue Bluffs and Seboeis Plantation. Even typing those names made QSJ aware of how huge and fractured Maine is.
Farther south in Penobscot County the same contradiction took shape as another big cluster of Biden supporters split their votes – Old Town (2,365-1,668 for Biden), Bangor (9,452-6,065) and Hampden (2,451-2,265). They went all in for Susan Collins.
And it wasn’t just a small contradiction. Biden overwhelmed Trump in Maine. He got 72,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton, which made
the Susan Collins victory even more dramatic.
Folks forget just how popular Susan Collins was in Maine. In 2014 she won every county, and almost 70 percent of the votes. In Cumberland County, the liberal bastion of Maine, she won 62 percent of the vote. (see chart left)
Until Donald Trump came along to play his brand of “take-no-prisoner” politics, Susan Collins was the darling of both the left and right. In 2015, polling firm Morning Consult found Collins to have, at 78 percent, the highest approval ratings of any Republican senator. .
She got Maine more than its fair share of federal largesse, whether it was in shipbuilding contracts, marine research grants or transportation improvements. And her reputation for constituent service was legendary, with multiple satellite offices to handle social security and disability problems for Maine’s elderly.
No town exemplified the pull of the Susan Collins mystique more than Tremont right here in the Quietside. Tremont has 492 registered Democrats, 320 Republicans and 349 unenrolled voters. It voted for Biden overwhelmingly, 590 to 422. But Susan Collins got 489 Tremonters t versus 467 for Sara Gideon. The fishing village of Bass Harbor received a big share of individual federal grants of up to $250,000 for each lobstermen. Apart from being “from away,” Gideon could only watch from the sidelines as the incumbent and soon-to-be the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee waved her wand and made sure voters could feel the power of a veteran who knew how to wield influence.
One campaign ad touted a $19.6 million grant Collins secured for the Town of Lubec – the northernmost fishing village in DownEast Maine – to erect a safe harbor to protect the lobster boats from being buffeted by the sea. Lubec voted 486-351 for Susan Collins, after giving Biden a 457-406 edge over Trump. There were many more Lubecs to be told in this campaign of attrition. Susan Collins was the Vietcong in this fight, shooting down Sara Gideon’s expensive Hueys with well targeted ads to remind voters of her ground game, and how she was not going to give an inch to those “from away.”
But now that she’s won, what does the future portend?
One has to wonder which is the Susan Collins we’ll see in action under a President Biden – the staunchly independent Senator from Maine who once wrote that Donald Trump is not fit for office or the obsequious party servant who trembled when things mattered? Will this be her chance to restore some luster to her legacy?
One thing for sure, Susan Collins will continue to play a familiar tune for rural Mainers she’s honed for 24 years.
TREMONT, Nov. 4, 2020 – The weekly police blotter does not weigh the severity of each incident. A burglary might be considered no more serious than a sighting of someone loitering. That’s why it’s called a blotter. Everything on it is deemed prosaic and monochromatic.
Two house break-ins over two days received scant attention in late October in this the most southeasterly and most rural of the four towns comprising MDI. Only one was even mentioned in the local paper.
QSJ made numerous calls to the Hancock County Sheriff’s department, which provides police services for small towns such as Tremont, to ask about the burglaries. A deputy, referred the call to Lt. Tim Cote who sent the following terse “press release”:
“Incident Report # :20-05051
Synopsis: On 10/25/2020 a residential burglary was reported in Tremont. This
investigation is ongoing.
Reporting Officer: Deputy Luke R. Gross
Incident Report # : 20-05021
Synopsis: On 10/23/20 at approximately 1715 hours the Sheriff’s Office received a report of a burglary at a Tremont residence. The case is still under investigation.
Reporting Officer : Deputy Zach Allen. This is all that can be released at this time as it is a very active investigation”
QSJ had better luck with the call desk and was told the burglaries occurred in Seal Cove near Hodgdon’s Seafood and in Bernard near AC Parson’s Landscaping. QSJ made the call in response to a reader’s desire for more information. An officer surmised it was a single perpetrator and that drugs were the motivation.
At first, Lt. Cote said I’d have to drive to Ellsworth to view the press release “because that’s where it is.” He then acceded to emailing the document, such as it was.
I’ll leave it to the resident of Tremont to decide their safety priorities and reaction to such pedestrian enforcement and lackluster reporting. Last October residents voted 2-1 to renew its contract with the county sheriff’s department and reject a competing proposal from Southwest Harbor which would have raised cost of police services by 50 percent. But there were complaints about the status quo, particularly the response time.
Your neighbor may be especially pecuniary but if your house has been broken into and you’ve called the cops, you don’t expect them to take two and a half hours to respond.
But things have changed since. With the recent death of Chief Alan Brown in SWH, island towns have re-opened Brown’s longstanding idea to consolidate police services. SWH selectmen voted 3-2 to pursue discussion. Tremont town manager Chris Saunders said he is open to such talks. Tremont’s current contract with the sheriff’s department runs through December 2023 but has a 30-day out clause.
The issue of police services is much more than streamlining cost. MDI has multiple islandwide agencies and services, but they are helter skelter and uneven in execution. By far the most successful of these is in education, or specifically, Mount Desert Island High School, which was the consolidation in 1968 of Bar Harbor, Pemetic and Mount Desert high schools. After two decades of squabbles and failed votes, the idea finally took hold. Since then, the high school consistently ranks among the best in Maine, and offers athletics, arts, music and cultural programs of high distinction. Moreover, as a mid-sized high school next to Acadia National Park and world renowned Jackson Labs on the island of Mount Desert, the school is able to attract exceptional educators who set high expectations for the student body. MDIHS is the only school in Maine which is 100 percent solar reliant for energy, sparked by a student initiative.
Can a similar approach work for police?
One of the professional hazards of police work is boredom. How many traffic violations and parking tickets can one person mete out before becoming completely jaded by the tedium.
Can an islandwide police job be more challenging and offer better candidates?
This photo of the Trump rally on Oct. 25 shows Mark Meadows, kneeling, with Jay Allen, who ran for Congress in District 1, Dale Craft, who ran in District 1, and Michelle Kaplan (with red scarf), who ran for state rep in the 132nd district. They all lost. Kaplan is an emergency room staffer at Mount Desert Hospital. She was quarantined after this photo went on social media.