When a folksy, quaint saying becomes weaponized, is it a slur?

SOMESVILLE, Feb. 13, 2021 – If you weren’t born here, there’s a name for you — a “come from away,” or a CFA for short.

I had just interviewed the emergency room doctor at MDI Hospital who told me that people who run, hike or do anything in a gym are the most likely to transmit Covid-19. He said when he walks on one of Acadia trails, he gives way by 12 feet to passing hikers and runners.

The exact situation presented itself late last fall on the Ship Harbor Trail when four women headed toward me maskless. I looked around to find a 12-foot distance but it was difficult on that narrow trail.

As the women passed me, I said, “You really ought to mask up.”

The first retort:

“Do you even live here?”

I said yes.

The second retort:

“I’ll bet you weren’t born here because if you were born here you would know we are outdoors and there is no danger of catching the virus from another person outdoors.”

The women went on their way, with loud exchanges about the “idiots from away.”

Fast forward to last week when I commissioned mockups showing photo-shopped composites of cruise ships and fish farm pens overtaking the our beloved Frenchman Bay. I shared the post on an FB page where several Bar Harbor residents defended the cruise ships and challenged the vantage point in the mockups. (an overwhelming number of comments thanked me for creating the visuals).

One of my detractors, a former BH council member, pointed out that I worked 17 years in Boston and how could anyone from Boston have an educated opinion about Maine? She was a strong defender of the cruise ships.

Until I started writing this blog – and therefore inviting potential backlash for my comments – I thought the phrase “come from away” was a folksy, quaint aphorism which helped define Mainers as they quietly poked visitors who didn’t know the proper way to eat a lobster and who couldn’t find their way back to their hotel. Fair enough. Innocent fun. Ha, ha, ha.

That is until I learned that the phrase wasn’t even authentically Maine. It’s Canadian, as defined by multiple dictionaries. McMillan Dictionary defines it as: a term used in Canada’s Atlantic provinces for someone who has moved to the area from somewhere else.

The Broadway hit, “Come from Away,” has sparked serious introspection in Canada about the true meaning of this phrase and whether Canadians should continue to use it. No such introspection exists in Maine.

In 2008, the Nova Scotia Liberal Party debated the following resolution:

“The terms ‘CFA’ or ‘come-from-away’ can be hurtful and does not project the welcoming society needed to attract and retain newcomers to Nova Scotia. Be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Liberal party urges members and all Nova Scotians to refrain from using the term ‘CFA’ to label newcomers to Nova Scotia.”

The term is common throughout Atlantic Canada, but Nova Scotia’s senior federal cabinet minister Scott Brison made headlines for suggesting the term should be banned from local vocabulary.

“It’s in our collective interest, economically and socially, to not use terms that reflect a negative view of people who choose to make Atlantic Canada their home,” he said.

Some posit that the expression may have been a reaction to another slur aimed at residents of Newfoundland, “Newfie,” which came around during WWII as American G.I.s derided the locals. (I am quite familiar with American G.I.s deriding locals).

“I hate the word,” said Overton Colbourne, 72, a professional engineer from Newfoundland who grew up at a time when the word delivered the sharpest slap. “I think it’s ugly,” he said in an interview with the New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/world/canada/has-a-canadian-slur-lost-its-sting.html

There are very few terms and words used to distinguish people that do not have an ugly aspect in their etymology. Use these words at your peril.

Boaters must drain craft under law proposed to protect lakes

MDI’s Billy Helprin testifies in favor of LD 184

Large milfoil patch in Long Lake, Naples, Maine

SOMESVILLE, Feb. 14, 2021 – The finger lakes on MDI have one great attribute because they were carved by glaciers. Like Somes Sound, they are deep. More than 100 feet in Long Pond, Eagle Lake, Echo Lake and Jordan Pond.

But that’s no comfort, as invasive species can cause devastation quickly.

In 2017, Lakes Environmental Association and Maine Department of Environmental Protection identified variable leaf milfoil growing in Long Lake, Naples, in southern Maine. Long Lake had previously been thought to be safe from this invasive aquatic plant, but substantial growth was found in Mast Cove in Naples.

Variable leaf milfoil has the potential to occupy large areas of Long Lake because the water body is relatively shallow with many coves; perfect for milfoil growth. This invasive plant grows and spreads incredibly quickly. Any fragment larger than an inch can re-root and become a new infestation.  Milfoil grows to the surface, and then spreads out in mats dense enough to prevent recreation and boating.

I pay my $20 fee every year for my milfoil sticker and proudly displays it on my canoe. But now, even more urgency needs to be felt by the public, said Billy Helprin, director of the Somes-Meynell Wildlife Sanctuary in Somesville. Billy is the keeper of the flame for all the visitors who make MDI special – alewive, loons, eagles, ospreys, etc. The lakes are crucial to the seasonal symmetry of these visiting species.

Billy recently testified to support adoption of proposed Maine registration to require all boaters to drain their craft of all water before they transport it elsewhere.

The situation is much more dire in lakes and ponds in southern Maine where state Rep. Walter Riseman, who represents Harrison, Bridgton and Denmark, introduced the bill at the urging of the Lake Environmental Association.

The idea is that if someone has a water craft in a lake with known invasive plants, such as Long Lake, the boater must drain the water which potentially carries the microscopic cells of the species. By the time the boater launches his craft into a pristine lake, say, Eagle Lake here, the cells will have long evaporated.

Billy Helprin (Director of the Somes-Meynell Wildlife Sanctuary) - Photo Credit - Katie Clark
Billy Helprin

“We have been lucky in Maine so far, largely due to being tucked way up in the northeastern corner of our country far from big population centers, to have so few of our more than 6,000 lakes and ponds infested with aquatic invasive species,” Billy Helprin said in his testimony before the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. “‘Luck’ is the key word, and luck is not usually an integral part of an effective management plan to defend against a serious threat that has the ability to: render waterbodies toxic from cyanobacteria; unusable for any recreational purposes; cause serious harmi to fish, loons and other wildlife; and significantly reduce property values and property tax income for towns.”

The legislation won’t have any teeth unless the public knows about it and Helprin urged the committee to consider a strong campaign to educate the public.

“The announcement and education efforts surrounding this law could be the critical factor in the prevention of particular invasive aquatic species infestations,” he said. “Awareness of the infestation threat and cascading effects of failure to prevent is critical to success. DEP and IF&W are well aware of how much more expensive, time consuming, and labor intensive it is to mount an aquatic species removal/control effort compared with preventative measures.”

The vaccine stations at the Cross Insurance Center are pictured on Feb. 1.  Natalie Williams / BDN

Vaccine appointments open up; state cases moderate; MDI still safer

SOMESVILLE, Feb. 13, 2021 – The ability to get vaccinations is getting easier and the number of Covid cases in Maine has declined to the level of early November. Two days this week, the cases fell below 200.

QSJ has become a seasoned veteran of the online scrum to register for Covid vaccinations and will offer my services free to anyone who doesn’t find the computer particularly friendly for this endeavor. You’ll need your Medicare ID info.

I finally broke through the Marginot Line this week and scored appointments for me and my wife. I did it through the Northern Light Health portal even though it has a very challenging process and frustrated many for its once-a-week signup on Mondays at 2. Northern Light signs you up for the second dose at the same time for exactly three weeks after the first dose.

Earlier I had pre-registered on MDI Hospital, Maine Health and an assortment of smaller venues from Millinocket to Skowhegan. I have not heard from any of those.

Northern Light added a server Feb. 1 to handle the additional load, but that server crashed leaving many signups hanging. The loading was still slow this week as well, but the system did not crash.

It makes sense that the Maine CDC would favor large hospitals like Northern Light because they have the wherewithal to vaccinate many people at once. In addition, Northern Light has vaccination centers with an hour’s drive of MDI, in Ellsworth, Bangor and Blue Hill. https://www.newscentermaine.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/vaccine/cross-insurance-center-to-serve-as-covid-19-mass-vaccination-site-for-bangor-region/97-442b574f-b05b-4cf8-9eb0-2eff54515cd3

Don’t assume you won’t get an appointment because the platform is jammed Mondays at 2 p.m. That’s when the traffic spikes, no doubt about it. But many people just quit and walk away leaving many appointments unfilled. This week, there were unfilled appointments through Thursday morning. Northern Light also has added a second vaccination pod at the Bangor Cross Insurance Center where they have the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 persons a day.

Walmart and Sam’s Club joined the fray this week across the country, although the appointments remained spotty. The Sam’s Club in Bangor was not active as of Friday. Walmart showed off its robust platform which performed at high speed. Appointments for both of its Bangor locations worked well. Make sure you click on pharmacy. As of today, Walmart had many appointments available for Feb. 19 in Bangor.

Walmart lacked the ability to schedule the second shot at the same time. You’re asked to sign up for the second shot later.

In all the hysteria, MDI continued to be a relatively safe place.

As of Wednesday, Bar Harbor Hospital reported 63 positive tests for local residents since the beginning of the pandemic, and eight non-residents. Not all residents choose to test at the local hospital, however. The hospital this week also reported it has administered 1,357 first doses and 511 second doses of the vaccine.

According to the Maine CDC, MDI could have had as high as 134 cases or a low of 87 cases. Maine CDC gives the numbers as a range for each zip code on the theory that privacy is illusive in small villages.

For bigger towns like Bar Harbor, it gives the precise number, 52. Ellsworth reported 208. Southwest Harbor’s range is 20-49, Mount Desert 6-19, Northeast Harbor, 6-19, Bass Harbor, 1-5, Seal Cove, 1-5.

Hancock County meanwhile is reporting 152.3 cases per 10,000 residents, the fourth lowest in the state.

COA’s one-day haul speaks to its momentum as a rising star in the academic world

May be an image of one or more people, snow and text that says '24-Hour Challenge TODAY!'

SOMESVILLE, Feb. 12, 2021 – Fundraising is now high art and MDI non-profits can learn a thing or two from the College of the Atlantic.

An anonymous donor challenged COA to match his/her $24,000 gift in a 24-hour period to raise $50,000 from other donors.

When the date came, Feb. 9, the college met that goal in hours, and then another challenge came in for $25,000 more to be matched. Again, the funds raised met the second challenge.

Total one-day haul? $186,085.

Final Result for 24-hour challenge 2021

COA President Darron Collins said,
“I’m so moved by how the greater COA community — on campus, across MDI, and all over the world — came together on Tuesday to support the college. It reaffirms that what we do is of real value locally and globally. I didn’t sleep across the entire 24-Hour period and wouldn’t have changed a thing in that respect — the 24-hour fire afforded me the chance to really touch base with students during a time when such personal contact is difficult. I have hundreds of hours of thanking to do now and I look forward to every minute of it.

“I lit the ‘Eternal 24-Hour Flame (sic)’ at 12 am on 2/9 and kept with it until 11:59:59 pm. That fire was a magnet for socially-distanced engagement … including pancakes, bacon and eggs, homemade tortillas, hot chocolate, steak, and loads of conversation.”

It was 25 years ago when my son and his cousin were enrolled in a summer program at the College of the Atlantic, a small, fledgling institution which took over a monastery on the outskirts of Bar Harbor in 1969. It didn’t figure much in my life as a summer vacationer.

Then someone told us about COA’s Beech Hill Farm and suddenly our vacation was scheduled around the farm’s hours of operation – closed Sunday and Monday so you’d better get there on Saturday. And Tuesday always promised the best stuff.

There is also COA’s Peggy Rockefeller Farms – part of the largest remaining contiguous area of historic farmland on MDI. PRF manages 45 acres of organic farmland, raises certified organic fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, broilers, turkeys, pasture and hay, as well as pasture-based beef and lamb.

The late David Rockefeller donated the farms to COA in January 2010, to be used in perpetuity for agriculture and conservation. The gift of the farms was accompanied by an endowment to help cover costs of management, maintenance and repairs.

Timing has always been a good to COA. In 1968, Father James Gower, a Catholic priest and peace activist, and his former football teammate from Bar Harbor High School, businessman Les Brewer, conceived the idea for the College of the Atlantic. The anti-war fervor of the Sixties fueled their passion.

COA’s ecological mission, established long before “climate change” entered the vernacular, is riding a global wave of companies, governments, NGOs and citizens seeking solutions.

How many small colleges are so positioned to benefit from such inexorable forces? At the footsteps of Acadia National Park with frontage on Frenchman Bay, no less, with a singular mission to train young minds to preserve earth? It syncs nicely with all the summer and year-round residents who share its sensibilities as they watch their own milieu protected and supported by an energetic cohort of young people from all over the world.

All first-year students are required to take an introductory course in human ecology. Other requirements include two courses in each focus area (Environmental Studies, Arts and Design, Human Studies), one quantitative reasoning course, one history course, and one course that involves extensive writing.

With its focus on interdisciplinary learning, College of the Atlantic does not have distinct departments, and all faculty members consider themselves human ecologists in addition to their formal specialization.

The intersection of the beauty of Acadia, a single mission of purpose to sustain that beauty and a bountiful audience of like-minded supporters eager to write checks make for a perfect trifecta. In 20 years COA has quintupled its endowment.

The first incoming class at COA, 1972.
First entering class – 1972
May be an image of snow
New Center for Human Ecology – Jen Holt Photography

The best part of COA is the students and teaching population, representing 50 foreign countries, including France, Mexico, Nigeria, Namibia, India and Texas. What a special treat – in such an ethnically homogeneous region, to be exposed to such a range of humanity. I can’t imagine how the cafeteria keeps up.

QSJ raises $1,178 in fundraiser for Common Good Soup Kitchen

SOMESVILLE, Feb. 13, 2021 – QSJ is happy to report that its first fundraising campaign achieved its goal of selling 50 branded t-shirts. The final tally was 52 sold, and $1,178 raised for the Common Good Soup Kitchen after expenses. https://www.customink.com/fundraising/dashboard/campaigns/3766457?status=

Thanks to all who gave!

Maine DEP law protects public, scenic vistas, shores, habitats

SOMESVILLE, Feb. 13, 2021 – I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty good with language. It’ll be interesting to see how the fancy pants lawyers for American Aquafarms distill the following to its benefit.

“In the Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA), 38 M.R.S.A. §§ 480-A through Z, the Legislature has found and declared that Maine’s rivers and streams, great ponds, fragile mountain areas, freshwater wetlands, significant wildlife habitat, coastal wetlands, and sand dune systems are resources of state significance. Section 480-A states that these resources have great scenic beauty and unique characteristics, unsurpassed recreational, cultural, historical, and environmental value of present and future benefit to the citizens of the State and that uses are causing the rapid degradation and, in some cases, the destruction of these critical resources. The Legislature’s recognition of the scenic beauty of these protected natural resources through statute distinguishes the visual quality of those resources and its value to the general population.

“Applicants for permits under the NRPA are required to demonstrate that a proposed activity meets the standards of the NRPA that have been established by the Legislature. Standard 1 in Section 480-D of the NRPA requires an applicant to demonstrate that a proposed activity will not unreasonably interfere with existing scenic and aesthetic uses.”

The Act also specifically calls out Acadia National Park:

“Scenic resources. The following public natural resources and public lands are usually visited by the general public, in part with the purpose of enjoying their visual quality. Under this rule, the Department considers a scenic resource as the typical point from which an activity in, on, over, or adjacent to a protected natural resource is viewed … A scenic resource visited by large numbers who come from across the country or state is generally considered to have national or statewide significance. A scenic resource visited primarily by people of local origin is generally of local significance.

            E.         National or State Parks (e.g., Acadia National Park, Sebago Lakes State Park);

            F.         Public natural resources or public lands visited by the general public, in part for the use, observation, enjoyment and appreciation of natural or cultural visual qualities.(e.g., great ponds, the Atlantic Ocean).

America Aquafarms is the Nordic company led by a convicted felon who wants to build two huge salmon farms in Frenchman Bay. The company is expected to file an application any day for leasing permits from the state of Maine. QSJ will monitor the process and alert readers when the public comment period begins. Here is the relevant chapter in the law:
Chapter 3XX ASSESSING AND MITIGATING IMPACTS TO …www.maine.gov › sos › cec › rules › 096c315

MDI towns ponder a future without Fiberight recycling plant

SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Jan. 13, 2021 – This town, and Bar Harbor, are beginning to consider the possibility that the Fiberight plant in Hampden may not be able deliver on its recycling promises, and what alternatives exist.

The two biggest towns on MDI are part of a consortium which is seeking to engage Delta Thermo Energy to operate the giant Fiberight plant which shut down last May because of financial reasons.

“I think there’s an ideal of like what this new company is going to do, and then there’s a reality of what they actually are going to be able to do,” said Bar Harbor Council member Val Peacock at its Feb. 2 meeting. “… and then there’s a set of track record of these companies not really being very soluble.”

Vice chair Matt Hochmann asked, “Can they deliver on their promises?”

Bar Harbor is the only town on MDI which has achieved any semblance of recycling since May. That’s because it is the only town which sorts its garbage – between trash and recyclables -before the waste is hauled away. After the plant closed, BH found another source to take its recycling but the percentage has fallen to only 12 percent of its total waste, reported Public Works Director Bethany Leavitt.

She said Fiberight was never able to achieved the 80 percent recycling and hit 50 percent during tests. She said the town could save $5,000 a month by halting the sorting until the plant restarts, but the council favored continuing the sorting as a commitment to recycling.

Further complicating the matter was the recent disclosure of Delta’s technology which consists of mashing the solid waste with sewage sludge to produce fuel to burn to generate electricity. In other words, the stuff would be incinerated, as in a traditional waste energy plant.

Henry Lang, manager of Penobscot Energy Recovery Company, which is the incinerator in Orrington currently burning most of the waste from the 115-town consortium, said he reviewed the Delta documents online and added, “Sure looks like a waste energy plant to me.”

The two towns on MDI which are not burdened by any concerns about Delta are Mount Desert and Tremont. They comprise most of a partnership called Acadia Disposal District, which includes Trenton.

Tony Smith, public works director at Mount Desert and a member of the board of the consortium, said, “My focus, and that of the MRC board, is working with the bondholders to re-open the Hampden facility in full compliance with current permits and have it operational so that our members can resume efficient and environmentally sound disposal of their MSW.”

That is opposite of the views of Jim Vallette, vice chair of SWH’s Warrant Committee who has been a vocal critic of the consortium (Municipal Review Committee). “The bottom line: this company, with a mysterious overseas owner and no fixed address, and a troubling track record, has been rejected by town after town in the mid-Atlantic. Now it plans to deliver NYC sewage sludge by barge to Hampden for incineration, and the MRC thinks this is good business for the towns.”

Vallette has been compiling a living document of his research. https://docs.google.com/document/d/10ghk9IGV1eCNYaUvpVKuWfc7DxhxuWUqO7vWfoajP58/edit

QSJ requested an interview with Michael Carroll, director the MRC, who replied in an email that he didn’t have time.

SWH struggles to find balance after firing town manager

SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Feb. 13, 2021 – This town is still seeking solid footing after firing Justin VanDongen, the former town manager who was a polarizing figure. The select board held its first meeting since the firing this week in a harmonious session and a show of unanimity on all issues.

Still, there are vacancies for town manager, police chief, and a host of big capital intensive projects to resurrect. The town almost lost Town Clerk Marilyn Lowell, who submitted her resignation during the waning days of the VanDongen era, but was persuaded to rescind it after he was fired.

She’s now out of the country on a planned vacation which comes at a price. The town is unable to accept any vehicles registration because Lowell was the only person certified to do so. This notice appeared on the town’s website this week:

NOTICE TO RESIDENTS, February 9-19th The Town Office will be doing Re-registrations ONLY this applies to vehicles, and atv/snowmobiles. New Registrations will resume Monday February 22 You can also Re-register vehicles and trailers online at https://www1.maine.gov/online/bmv/rapid-renewal/

The town also had to cut back on services the last week of 2020 because of poor scheduling. Selectman George Jellison told QSJ at the time there would be a reckoning after Jan. 12. It was unclear what he meant by that date.

VanDongen left the town with a host of unfinished business. SWH must properly train its office staff to handle numerous functions.

The selectmen added Don Lodge, chair of the Warrant Committee and an experienced public works veteran, to its infrastructure committee to help find a solution to the decrepit town garage which must be replaced. The board voiced a unanimous wish that the project be completed for under $1.6 million. Voters decided last year by nine votes to reject a $1.9 million proposal.

Roof buckling
Garage door unable to close completely
Door rusted from bottom
Chimney on verge of collapsing

Postscript: NEH zoning fight kicked back to appeals board

NORTHEAST HARBOR, Feb. 13, 2021 – As expected the Planning Board unanimously re-affirmed its decision to approve the “replacement” of the house at 11 Barnacles Way and sent it back to the Zoning Board of Appeals which had asked the Planning Board for clarification. The Planning Board also attached the written explanation of compliance with zoning ordinance written by the lawyer for Otium LLC, the owner of 11 Barnacles Way. Neighbors William and Majorie Grace appealed the Planning Board decision last fall.

Leave a Reply