Thursday, July 25, 2002

Local farmers take goods to market

Published in the Current

Farmers and gardeners from Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough make twice-weekly drives into the center of Portland for farmer’s market sales. On Wednesday, they and farmers from as far as Buxton and Hollis set up in Monument Square, opposite the time-and-temperature building, and on Saturdays they are in Deering Oaks Park.

They come for different reasons, but the money is good and the customers are steady.

Larry Bruns of Hanson Field Flower Farm, on Hanson Road, said he had a hard month in May, but is back up ahead of where he was last year. The weather not only hurt his crops, but also kept his customers in a wintry mindset.

“People were not in the mood to buy flowers,” Bruns said.

He said people appreciate the local aspect of the businesses at the Farmer’s Market, and often visit the farms where the produce comes from.

“I come to the Farmer’s Market basically as a form of advertising,” Bruns said.

Don McLewin of Dunstan Lawn and Garden on Route 1 has been bringing his farm’s produce to the market for 16 years. When he started, the market was next to the federal building, and moved twice before ending up in the square.

The Deering Oaks market has larger sales volume, McLewin said, from people who pull up their cars and do their weekly produce shopping.

The Monument Square market caters more to office workers, who buy flowers or smaller amounts of vegetables and fruits.

There are regular buyers, though, especially folks from Peaks Island, McLewin said. “You get so you know ‘em all,” he said.

Lester Jordan of L &A Farm in Cape Elizabeth has been at the market for 15 years, and said weather plays a big role in sales. “Now that the weather’s decent, it makes a big difference at the market,” he said.

Weather does more than influence the numbers of people who will walk through an open-air market, though. “It wasn’t a good spring,” Jordan said.

The wet weather meant many crops grew only shallow roots, and were easily blown over by high winds recently. “Some years they go well and some years they don’t,” he said.

And despite the hard spring, things are looking up for the summer. “We may recover,” Jordan said.

Farm stands still thriving in Cape

Published in the Current

Formerly the home of more farms than anything else, Cape Elizabeth has but three farm stands left.

Alewive’s Brook Farm is in one way perhaps the most traditional, with family members staffing a small stand next to the barn at the farm between Old Ocean House Road and Route 77.

While they used to take some of the farm’s vegetables to farmers’ markets in Saco, Westbrook and at the Maine Mall, that has ceased to be a profitable endeavor.

“Ninety percent of the vegetables are sold right here,” said Jodie Jordan. He does get emergency orders from restaurants and even other farm stands that have run out of specific vegetables. But most of the veggies sell to locals.

“On a good sunny day, you get more business,” he said, noting that those are the days when folks from Portland and inland head to the beaches.

But in a twist unusual for farm stands, most of the money at Alewive’s is made in lobster. “Lobsters are the big thing,” Jordan said. “Very few people will come in shopping for vegetables.”

Jordan and his family catch some of the lobsters themselves. But demand is so high, he has to buy lobsters from 12 to 15 local lobster boats. Half the farm stand is vegetable sales, and on the other is the lobster tank, with dozens of lobsters in holding cages, separated by weight and shell thickness.

The finances of the operation, though, mean Jordan has to continue operating a genuine farm stand, even as he makes a good proportion of his money from lobsters.

“If we don’t farm the land, the town will tax it,” he said. The land would be considered available for development and taxed at a higher rate than a working farm, he said.

And demand for vegetables won’t support the additional farming the land would permit.

“(People will) buy hundreds of dollars in lobster and no vegetables,” Jordan said. That he blames on supermarkets and increasing time pressures on people.

Most supermarkets stock all kinds of produce all the time, regardless of when the local crops are ripe. People want corn in early summer, Jordan said, but his corn isn’t ready until late July.

Nate Maxwell of Maxwell’s Farm, on Spurwink Avenue, agreed. “We have a steady business when we have produce,” he said. “When things are going well, we can sell everything.”

He starts the season with an “early field,” planting crops before the real growing season begins, to provide some produce early in the summer.

This year frost killed the early field, and cold meant a late start for many crops. He can’t keep up with demand. In the future, he said, he may move toward more pick-your-own crops, in addition to the large strawberry patch the farm has on Old Ocean House Road. That, though, depends on the weather.

Up at Jordan’s Farm on Wells Road, Penny Jordan said pick-your- own strawberries is a big draw, and has been for over 30 years.

“It’s always been a big part of our business,” she said.

The market is now in a new building, constructed last year and opened this season, offering a lot more space than the old place, as well as electricity, which may help the stand stay open later in the fall.

“They come in and they just love it,” Jordan said. With comfortable chairs outside and a nearby flower garden, Jordan has created a pleasant place to relax.

“I want it to become a real community building,” she said.

Local residents are big supporters of the farm, and at the peak of the season, Jordan said, people stop by the farm stand to pick up their produce before heading to the supermarket.

“Cape Elizabeth is a wonderful community for supporting the local farms,” Jordan said.

She also offers new home-grown products, which this year include the oft-requested garlic, and the flower garden next to the stand allows people to cut their own blossoms.

All of the farm stands take seriously their local nature, and buy little if any of what they sell from other farmers, preferring instead to “only sell what we grow,” as Penny Jordan put it.

Pine Point, Blue Point concerned about healthy waterways

Published in the Current

The first stage of Scarborough’s neighborhood visioning project concluded July 18, with a meeting of the Pine Point and Blue Point neighborhoods at the Blue Point School.

“It’s a different kind of planning process,” said Frank O’Hara of Planning Decisions, the South Portland firm the town has hired to conduct the visioning project. “It’s one that starts with a conversation.”

The 50-odd Pine Point and Blue Point neighbors discussed where their sub-neighborhoods were, coming up with areas along the beach like Pillsbury Shores, the Old Pine Point neighborhood and East Grand Avenue; Eagle’s Nest and Seavey’s Landing along the river; and Peterson’s Field, Old Blue Pine Estates, Old Snow Village, Burhnahm Woods and Windsor Pines more inland.

Areas of particular significance were the beaches, clam flats, marsh and river regions, which residents wanted preserved. Residents were also concerned about access to shoreline and boat launch facilities.

Other important areas were the Pine Point Fisherman’s Co-op, Peterson Field, Windsor Pines, the Maine Audubon reserve, Dunstan Landing, the Eastern Trail and wildlife sanctuaries, Jones Creek, the park and tennis courts across from the Blue Point Congregational Church, and several historic buildings, including the churches in the area, the former post office next to the Clambake restaurant and the Periwinkle, a former bowling alley and dance hall.

Neighbors’ fears for the next 10 years included over-development, increasing taxes, beach and river erosion, traffic, overcrowding, crowded schools, high-density housing, filling in of the river and the marsh, dune grass fires, beach litter, pollution, parking issues, sprawl, crime, loss of sidewalks and bike paths, and losing a sense of pride in the town.

Also on the lists of fears were high-rise buildings, including the list at the table where Dale Blackie was seated. Blackie has proposed a six-story building with 32 separate housing units, to be built on Blue Point Ridge. The project has not yet been presented to the Planning Board.

Residents also came up with lists of things that would improve quality of life. Those included a senior center, improvements in town government, traffic control, increasing sidewalks and bike paths, limiting growth and development, good quality schools, regular raking of the beach and controlling use of the Pine Point Beach and marina. They also called for protecting wetlands, stabilizing taxes, keeping open spaces, a branch library, parking limits in Pine Point, keeping the area “quaint,” mosquito control, better enforcement of existing laws (especially leash and pooper-scooper laws), cleaning of the beach and roadsides, maintaining the diversity of the area, providing a voice for summer residents, pursuing home tax delinquents, requiring developers to leave more trees, and enforcing shoreland zoning.

Traffic and parking complaints also played into a collective opposition to the proposed Great American Neighborhood at Dunstan Corner.

Some residents said they would be OK with the plans, but only after traffic and school facilities were planned and built.

“Dunstan Corner cannot handle the traffic,” said Stan Bayley, who called the intersection “dangerous.” Hopes for the town as a whole also included controlling development, maintaining the historic character of the town, and keeping a balance between business, residential and open space. “We’re concerned that the Town Council thinks progress is more development,” said Pierre Brunet. “There’s a lovely balance here.”

Favorite places throughout the town tended toward the beaches, but extended to natural, scenic and cultural spaces all over, including Scarborough Downs, Fuller Farm, Flaherty Farm, Beech Ridge Farm, the marsh, the Eastern Trail, Prouts Neck, the school/sports/library area in Oak Hill, the clay pits off Black Point Road, Kingston Field, Springbrook Park, the fishing derby pond, the Christmas tree farm on Beech Ridge Road, golf courses, the Hunnewell House, Bessey School, Dunstan School and Oak Hill Grammar School, the old drive-in property, the scenic drive along Spurwink Road toward Cape Elizabeth, the woods along the I-295 connector and the grange halls.

Hopes for the town’s future included lower taxes, growth control, lower-density neighborhoods, public transportation, beautification of Route 1, a town pool, strong schools, biking and hiking trails, tax relief for senior citizens, tax relief for farmers and fishermen, a teen center, protection of the marsh, town-wide sewers, improved traffic management, limits on industrial development, maintenance of natural land, better planning and budgeting, instilling a sense of pride and community in residents and visitors, sidewalks everywhere, dredging the Scarborough River, parking controls, increasing the commercial tax base, recycling, increasing government’s attention to citizen concerns, and providing services for seniors.

“I’m tired of paying taxes and having a hot dog diet,” said one senior citizen.

Planning Decisions will meet through the rest of the summer with advocacy groups in town, including the Scarborough Historical Society, the Conservation Commission and the Scarborough Conservation Land Trust. The fall will see a town-wide meeting to address issues raised in the neighborhood meetings, followed by a report to the Town Council to incorporate into the town’s next comprehensive plan.

Lightning sparks house fire

Published in the Current

Cindy Andreson was at home Tuesday with her parents, who live with her and her husband on Val Terrace, when a big thunderstorm hit Scarborough around 4 p.m. Lightning lit up the sky, and several bolts struck near Andreson’s house.

“We heard a loud bang and we jumped,” she said. The smoke alarms went off in the house, but after checking each room, Andreson couldn’t find
any smoke. She called her husband, Charlie, a former town councilor, at work to ask what she should do next. He told her to shut off the circuit breaker, which she did. But that was only the beginning.

“Somebody knocked on our door and said the house is on fire,” she said.

Lightning had struck dead center on the roof of the house and set it on fire. The fire spread through several beams in the roof, burning a hole through to the attic.

Firefighters, already on duty at downed wires and car accidents around town, raced to the scene, arriving shortly after 4 p.m. Within 30 minutes they had the fire almost completely out and were checking the home’s interior for further flames.

Firefighters were able to retrieve Andreson’s mother’s medication from the home, and had also moved much of the furniture into the garage, limiting water and smoke damage to some extent.

The fire damage was contained to the attic, according to Deputy Fire Chief Glen Deering, but there was water damage to the rest of the house.

Firefighters cleaned up the scene and covered the house with tarpaulins supplied by Risbara Construction, Deering said, departing around 7 p.m.

Lightning strikes can cause fires, but don’t always, Deering said. Depending on the electricity’s path to the ground, a strike can do damage or start a burn.

Around the same time as the Andreson home caught fire, lightning struck a barn on Winnocks Neck Road, Deering said.

Both strikes were in roughly the same place on the buildings, the middle of the roof, but the barn suffered only minor exterior damage as the current traveled the length of the roof and blew off some clapboard from the end of the building, Deering said.

“It’s like an act of God,” he said.

When fire does start, it is because of the intense energy contained in a bolt of lightning. As the energy changes from traveling through the air and starts traveling in wood or other materials, it gives off heat, which can ignite the materials.

Lightning also blew the chimney off a house on Star Pine Lane, Deering said, but no fire was found there.

A similar thunderstorm on July 18 resulted in a lightning strike at a home on Beech Ridge Road. The fire department arrived around 3 a.m. and found that a bolt of lightning had struck next to the house and the current had traveled
inside. There was no fire, but a computer and several electrical components in the house were ruined, Deering said. “You could smell the smoke,” he said, of the melted electrical equipment.

Later that day, around 10 a.m., the fire department received a call from a woman on Old Colony Lane who reported her home had also been struck during the night. Firefighters checked that out, but found nothing, Deering said.

Rabid animals found in Cape Elizabeth

Published in the Current

A rabid raccoon and a rabid fox are the latest casualties in Cape’s rabies epidemic, one that is scarier than the outbreak two years ago because the diseased animals are aggressive.

In the 2000 outbreak, the few contacts domestic animals had with rabid ones were because a dog initiated the contact, according to Animal Control Officer Bob Leeman.

This year is different. “Now those wild animals seem to be the aggressors,” Leeman said. A dog and a cat that have come in contact with possibly rabid animals are now under quarantine in their homes in Cape, he said. A
13-year-old cat was also killed by an encounter with a rabid fox, though no bite marks were visible on the cat, Leeman said.

On the morning of July 10, a rabid fox approached a residence on Lighthouse Point Road, near Two Lights State Park. Two people were eating breakfast on an outside deck, and two dogs were with them.

The fox came up onto the deck, where one dog threw it to the side, and one of the people kicked the fox off the deck, Leeman said. It headed off into the underbrush.

Leeman was able to track the fox through neighborhood trails and yards, and shot it with the 22-caliber handgun he uses. He had to shoot it several times, as a shot to the head of a possibly rabid animal can destroy the possibility of testing for rabies.

The fox was sent to the state crime lab in Augusta, and was found to have the raccoon strain of rabies. Leeman was pleased to learn that it was not the fox strain of rabies, meaning that most of the fox population in Cape is likely to be free from rabies.

The fox in question, he said, had probably attacked a sick raccoon.

A raccoon was spotted on Spurwink Road near the transfer station July 17, and was also aggressive.

Officer Scott Thompson shot it three times in the body with a 22-caliber handgun, and it still charged to attack him. Officer Mark Dorval, also at the scene, then drew his service handgun, a 45-caliber weapon, and shot the raccoon.

Leeman warned residents to keep close watch on their pets when they’re outside, and to beware even when walking dogs on a leash.

Aggressive rabid animals may attack even when people are around, he said.

The rabies two years ago resulted in the deaths of over 50 raccoons and 24 skunks, Leeman said. He said that could mean the danger is lower now, because the populations are smaller.

Two crows were found on Shore Road near Cragmoor July 6, and were sent to Augusta to be tested for West Nile virus, which has been found in birds in Cape in the past. Leeman said he has not heard the official word on the crows, but assumes they will test positive for West Nile virus.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

New music teacher for Cape

Published in the Current

Cape Elizabeth High School music students will have a new teacher come the fall, following the retirement of Norm Richardson, who had taught music at CEHS for eight years in the last phase of a long teaching career.

Tom Lizotte of Biddeford has been chosen to replace Richardson, and high school Principal Jeff Shedd said Lizotte is well qualified to fill the big shoes Richardson leaves behind.

“Tom Lizotte comes very highly recommended to us,” Shedd said.

The position had about a dozen applicants, and the interview process included two parents, an indication, Shedd said, of the community-wide nature of the music position.

Lizotte himself knew both Richardson and middle school music teacher Terry White, and said he has “great respect” for both men.

“I’ve known Norm for as long as I’ve been in Maine,” Lizotte said.

Lizotte also has a long-standing collaboration with White, who preceded him in Biddeford. After coming to Cape, White continued to write some music for the Biddeford bands, Lizotte said.

“I’m very excited about coming to Cape Elizabeth,” he said. “It’s really a wonderful community. ”

Lizotte said he doesn’t expect to make many changes to the strong music program at CEHS. “I’m not into fixing stuff that’s not broken,” he said.

Looking into the future, though, Lizotte would like to incorporate into the music curriculum pieces written specifically for CEHS musicians.

“I think it’s important for students to have music composed specifically for them,” he said. It’s something he did in Biddeford, with great success. The students could meet the composer and discuss the piece before playing the composition in its first public performance.

One location Lizotte would like to see celebrated in music is Two Lights State Park, a place he called, “my most favorite place in all of Maine.”

Commissioning pieces, he said, is also a way to teach students that music is not a static library of old composition. “Art is something that’s created every day,” Lizotte said.

Town to be part of federal drug task force

Published in the Current; co-written with Kate Irish Collins

The town of Scarborough, along with drug agents on the federal and state level, will join with the town of Cumberland to create a new task force meant to intercept illegal drug shipments and buys along the Interstate 95 corridor.

Although details of the task force have yet to be worked out, Scarborough intends to use money it has received from the asset forfeiture of those caught dealing in drugs in the area to pay for a new police officer that would be attached to the drug task force, to be headed by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

At a Town Council meeting held Wednesday after the Current’s deadline, the council was expected to accept a total of $15,577 from a drug bust that occurred in December.

According to Town Manager Ron Owens, the town is also expecting to receive another $5,000 from another drug bust sometime soon.

Working with officials from the DEA and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, police here were able to catch two people at the Residence Inn on Payne Road that were expecting a large shipment of marijuana from Arizona last December.

According to Police Chief Robert Moulton, the case originated in Arizona, where the Department of Public Safety doing an under-cover controlled buy, seized 333 pounds of marijuana and $86,500 in cash.

“They got the individual down there to cooperate and work with the feds. He came up to Maine as if he still had the marijuana and met the two buyers at the Scarborough hotel. We were able to intercept the buyers and seized $60,000 from one of the buyers. We found more money in the vehicle and a second defendant,” Moulton told the Current.

Normally money received into the Police Department’s Asset Forfeiture Account is used to buy special law enforcement equipment, not put into the department’s annual operating budget, Moulton said. “It all helps,” he added.

But due to the new drug enforcement task force that Scarborough will be a part of, any money the department receives for helping making a drug bust will go toward paying for the time of the police officer attached to the drug task force.

“We are not planning to make any big announcement when we first get started,” Owens said, “but neither are we trying to keep it from the public.”

Owens is expecting the task force to take shape over the next several weeks. “I don’t think that this means that there are more drug sales, more drugs coming into Scarborough than before. I just think that we are along the interstate here and that drugs are moving up and down on their way to buyers and dealers,” Owens said.

Council says paint “The Rock” in daylight

Published in the Current

Cape Elizabeth town councilors are encouraging people to paint on “The Rock” on Route 77 during daylight hours, and to be respectful of neighboring residents at all times.

Dennis and Ann Flavin, whose driveway is directly opposite the rock, have complained to the town about nighttime noise, including yelling and squealing tires, as well as littering, harassment and trespassing by people involved in painting the rock. They have threatened to sue the town if something is not done.

The town’s proposed remedy includes having the police ask all people observed painting the rock to “move along,” and informally encouraging students to paint on the rock during the day, and without making noise or leaving litter behind.

Several councilors worried about the public’s response if, for example, police officers arrested people caught painting the rock, which lies in the state right-of-way for Route 77, and is technically overseen by the state Department of Transportation.

There is a town ordinance making it illegal for people to “mark or write on” public places in town. Police Chief Neil Williams said he was reluctant to supervise any legalized painting of the rock, but is concerned about the Flavins’ “peace of mind,” as well as preventing them from being harassed or being unable to sleep at night due to noise.

Williams said there are already laws in place to deal with littering, noise complaints, harassment and trespassing. Each of those, he said, would require police to warn violators before issuing a summons. If a violator refused to comply with the law after a warning, or returned at
some later time or date, Williams said, then a summons could be issued.

Councilor Henry Berry, a former prosecutor, agreed with Williams’s interpretation of the law.

Several councilors, as well as Town Manager Mike McGovern, noted the lack of precedent for taking legal action against people observed painting. “No one has ever been summonsed for painting the rock,” he said.

Councilor Berry asked if the town had jurisdiction over state property within the town limits. Williams said the police do issue summonses on state property, but not for violations of town ordinances.

All of the councilors, except the absent Penny Carson, expressed sympathy for the Flavins’ situation, and said they would not tolerate the behavior the Flavins were complaining about.

“The harassing, the noise, the litter, the trespassing is not condoned,” said Councilor Carol Fritz.

She questioned whether the council should expressly allow painting of this particular rock, and whether that permission would be extended to other rocks in town that are also painted.

Councilor Anne Swift-Kayatta said the Flavins’situation is bad. “No one should have to put up with that sort of disturbing of the peace,” she said. But, she said, she had heard support from town citizens who wanted the painting of the rock to continue, without the noise.

Superintendent Tom Forcella made a plea on behalf of the students.

“Obviously the students really like that tradition,” he said. “The control is the issue.” He said he wanted some sort of compromise to be arranged, “so they can still keep the tradition and still keep the peace.”

Ann Flavin said the rock is a relatively new tradition. “We didn’t have a rock until 1965,” she said, when Route 77 was widened. She said the rock was public, and that the ordinance prohibits graffiti.

“Let kids go up to the Statehouse and graffiti the Statehouse,” she said.

Her husband said he didn’t want to get more people in trouble, but was concerned about the noise.

“There was a few nights I only got two hours’sleep,” he said, proposing an alternative: “Wouldn’t it be more feasible and sensible to move the rock?”

Ann Flavin proposed a wall be constructed near the high school and new community center. “What better place to relocate a wall for (people) to write on?” she asked.

Fritz replied that such a wall could have difficulty meeting the zoning rules for the town center.

The content of the messages painted on the rock was also a subject for discussion.

Town public works employees are called out “a little less than once a year” to paint over obscene or inappropriate messages painted on the rock, McGovern said. The police department does the same about once a year as well, Williams said.

The state DOT has been out “once or twice” in the past five years to paint over messages.

Resident Kevin Sweeney, who is also on the School Board but said he was speaking as a private citizen, contrasted the painting on the rock with his experience of graffiti in New York City. The messages on the rock, he said, were unlike the “tagging” New Yorkers consider graffiti.

Sweeney said some of the people who paint the rock behave in a way that is “clearly repugnant.” But after Sept. 12, when the American flag was painted there, the painters had cleaned up after themselves.

He said the rock has been painted less frequently in recent months, starting with the flag on Sept. 12, the addition of the names of local active-duty members of the armed forces in late December, and a total repainting around Memorial Day.

Sweeney also said the rock creates a place for teen-agers to go. “I think our people need a place to express themselves,” he said.

Anthony Zinani, a recent CEHS graduate, said the rock is not painted with “graffiti,” but is instead a place for small-town accomplishments to be announced to the town and celebrated with the community.

“Is it that bad to paint a memorial to Toni Williams?” he asked. “It’s not graffiti. It’s a memorial. I think it’s part of the Cape Elizabeth community.”

Resident Frank Strout said he has seen the rock painted for 30 years, and even goes out of his way to drive by it, especially when he knows a team has won a big game or championship. “I’d like to see it continue,” he said.

Former high school teacher and coach Don Richards said the tradition is an important one, especially to sports teams. “We’d get back (from a game) at 3 a.m. and they’d be ready to paint the rock,” he said.

“It was their way of saying to the community, ‘Look, we did this,’” he said.

Richards said he thought it could be made more palatable. “I think a lot of kids paint the rock during the night because they don’t know that it would be OK to paint during the day,” he said.

And now, that may be the case.

Dennis Flavin said it would be OK with him if the rock was painted quietly. His wife took a harder line, saying to councilors, “You made up the law against graffiti. I’m offended by the rock. I’m offended by the people that go out there and do it.”

Other Cape residents living near other graffiti-painted rocks sympathized with the Flavins’ situation, and one even said she regularly found used paint cans and paintbrushes near the rock close to her home. Some residents said they had not had any problems with the people who painted the rocks near their houses, while the woman who found the litter effectively agreed with the Flavins.

She suggested the town build a wall near the high school where students could paint notices of their achievements, and said she tried not to look at the rocks as she drove by, because she didn’t like them.

Residents did not want to give their names for fear they would be harassed by kids who enjoy painting the rocks. The Flavins said the noise and harassment have gotten worse since they complained to the town.

Forcella and Sweeney said they would pass the word informally through the school administration and student councils, and encourage students to be respectful of the property and of the Flavins when painting the rock.

In search of the perfect read

Published in the Current

Clint Willis lived in different worlds as a kid, moving between his home in southern Louisiana and the settings of the books he read.

“I was a real bookworm growing up,” he said.

Now, living in Cape Elizabeth and working in Portland, he brings his experience as a voracious reader to the writing business. “I’ve always been as much of a reader as a writer,” Willis said.

He started as a journalist in New York City after college and covered financial markets for Money Magazine and other major publications for a decade or so, before deciding to start a family with his wife, Jennifer.

With two boys, they moved to Cape Elizabeth. “It just seemed like it would be a great place to raise a family,” Willis said. He started freelancing for magazines after the move, but found an approach different from the traditional solo freelancer.

He had experience working in what he called “team journalism,” with researchers, editors and reporters collaborating on stories. “I sort of applied that model in my work,” he said, hiring aspiring journalists right out of college and teaching them to be reporters while they helped him with his assignments.

The business, aptly named The Writing Company, also undertook contract jobs for business newsletters and other corporate publications.

Now the company, which Willis sees more as a teacher-student relationship, has alumni freelancing for business and technology publications and attending business school. One even wrote a novel.

Most of the work was financial journalism in the beginning, for clients like Forbes, Worth and Money, but his interests drew him to outdoors magazines like Outside and Men’s Journal.

“I’ve always been interested in mountain climbing,” Willis said.

In 1997, he published the first of what would become a long series of adventure-inspired anthologies. The book, called “Epic,” was a collection of harrowing mountaineering experiences. It kicked off a series called “Adrenaline Books,” now with over 30 books, mostly anthologies. Over 500,000 copies of the books are in print.

He and his staff, most notably Cape Elizabeth native Nat May and Nate Hardcastle, put the anthologies together, choosing from a wide range of stories and authors, assembling them to be riveting reads.

“A lot of the books that I’ve done have come out of stuff that I’m interested in,” Willis said. The series reflects his wide-ranging interests and curiosity, covering polar exploration, firefighting, Mafia insiders, the writings of the Dalai Lama and collections of writing about Jesus, meditation and gangs, among others.

The art of the anthology is what gets Willis truly fired up. He doesn’t want his anthologies to be catch-all books comprehensively covering a subject from all angles and including writing by all known experts, destined to sit on shelves for occasional reference.

Instead, Willis tries to make them enjoyable reading. “No one’s really realized the potential of anthologies,” he said. “An anthology could be just a great read.”

He doesn’t even try to make his collections representative or complete.

Instead, he chooses pieces that are strongly written and stand on their own merits as stories.

Sometimes he finds the one great piece created by a mediocre writer, or resurrects stories long forgotten. Other times he grabs a magazine article and puts it into a book, taking it from a periodical to a permanently published format.

“I’m just going to find the best reading experience,” Willis said. “There’s a lot of stuff out there that people don’t read anymore.”

Bette’s still serving it up after 53 years

Published in the Current

Bette’s Lunch and Breakfast hides along the edge of Route 1 in Scarborough, right next to the fire station. It’s behind a tree and doesn’t have a very obvious sign, but Betty Pennell doesn’t mind.

Entering the diner can be an act of faith, if the “Open” sign isn’t in the front window. The place can be quiet enough on a weekday lunch hour to cause doubt about whether the griddle is on inside.

But more than likely, Betty’s inside wielding a spatula, cooking up burgers. In the mornings, it’s mostly ham and eggs, though she also makes pancakes. It’s the same place she has been for nearly 53 years.

The place has an old-time family feel. The prices on the board haven’t changed for years: A hamburger is listed at 40 cents.

There’s not even a cash register – just a drawer next to the griddle, and Betty’s mind keeps track of the bill.

Prices are relative. One man, a regular, had been coming there since his youth. Now an adult, he paid two dollars for two hamburgers and a soda. This reporter, sitting next to him, paid the same amount for a single burger and a soda. But the second time I went in, I paid only one dollar for two burgers.

The building itself once sat in South Portland but was moved to make way for shipyards in World War II. The owner then, a man who owned three restaurants in the area, moved the building to Scarborough, “and here it sits,” Pennell said.

When the fire station next door wanted to expand, Pennell refused to sell. As a result, she said, she doesn’t get much business from the firefighters, though
she does see policemen now and again. Her reluctance to change is still evident.

The original wallpaper is still on the walls, though a bit darker now, with decades of griddle smoke. “I’m going to paint it sometime, if I ever get around to it,” Pennell said.

She doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry, though, and it’s no surprise for a woman nearing 80 years of age who gets up at 4 a.m. each day to serve breakfast to her customers, who are often workers at Scarborough Downs.

Before she bought the diner, she worked for King Cole in a nearby potato chip factory. “They made good chips,” she said. She doesn’t serve chips—or French fries—with her burgers, though.

She’s feisty, and many of the customers, including Butch Bearsley, a customer since he was a kid, tell stories about Pennell’s spunk, including her sometimes loose interpretations of food orders. “You get what she wants you to get,” Bearsley said with a smile. Somehow, it seems, she always knows what customers want.

Bearsley brings his own kids to the diner now, and said they prefer Bette’s over McDonald’s or Burger King. Though the fast-food joints across the road may have cut into her customer base, Pennell said she doesn’t mind. “I’m not going to say anything against them,” she said, “but I’m not like that.”

The community recognized that years ago, but is beginning to forget.

“I remember you could never get a place to sit in here,” Bearsley said.

Now, even on Sundays, there are some empty tables, Pennell said.

Most of her clientele are long-term customers, but, she said, she sees plenty of summer visitors. If nobody’s around, she sits and watches the traffic on Route 1.

Betty may be losing a step or two as she ages, and some friends have encouraged her to stop. But she just shook her head when the subject came up. “There aren’t too many places like this left,” she said.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Home health aide to be charged in theft

Published in the Current

A female home health care nurse is expected to be charged with theft for stealing jewelry and a blank check from an elderly Cape Elizabeth woman in her care.

The theft, reported on June 17, involved the patient’s wedding ring and other jewelry, stolen from an area in the home that is not regularly visited by the patient, whose mobility is restricted.

The wedding ring and the check have been recovered, according to Detective Paul Fenton.

The suspect, whose name is not being released yet, was also working in another Cape residence. She was the second nurse in that residence, as her predecessor had been fired for stealing as well. The family in that home had hidden all valuables and did not report any thefts by the suspect in the wedding ring theft.

The home health agency is cooperating with the investigation, Fenton said.

He had three suspects and has narrowed his list down to two with the help of a polygraph test. The remaining two suspects have not yet taken a polygraph test, Fenton said.

Fenton suggested that people take special care in screening any workers who may be in their homes, including contractors, home health aides and cleaning people. He recommended hiding valuables in a safe place, and checking all hiding places regularly.

He even mentioned “testing” in-home workers by leaving small amounts of money in semi-hidden places, or places in which it might have been forgotten. By checking those places, residents may be able to learn whether their in-home workers are honest or not, Fenton said.

Employers or third-party services may be available to perform background checks, but Fenton cautioned that those will only turn up people who have been caught in the past, and can’t predict who might commit crimes for the first time.

Slow down in Prouts Neck

Published in the Current

It’s summertime, which means slow down on Prouts Neck. The police are watching.

Sgt. Michael Barker of the Scarborough Police Department is there year-round, and is assisted by several members of the department during the summer, protecting residents of Prouts Neck from speeders and other miscreants.

Under a 1993 arrangement with the town, the Prouts Neck Association (PNA) pays all of the costs associated with the officers, including their salaries, uniforms and equipment, as well as patrol car maintenance and insurance expenses.

The money is either paid directly by PNA to the provider of the services, or, under certain circumstances, PNA reimburses the town.

It is a long-standing arrangement going back as many as 40 years.

“As far as I know, the association has always paid for it,” said Lee Sprague, president of the Prouts Neck Association.

Barker himself has been the neck’s officer for 14 of his 34 years as a policeman.

“They want somebody in their neighborhood all the time,” Barker said.

During the summer, the association pays for some additional help, and five officers and reserve officers help out, some doing as little as one shift a week.

The work is, Barker said, “the same thing you do anywhere else in town.” But most of the work is speed monitoring. Putting a police car on the road in Prouts Neck can help, even when the radar unit is off.

“We have a very strict speed limit law,” Sprague said. The association suggests that residents use bicycles to get around the neck, and many residents do, especially children.

“They have a wonderful degree of freedom up here that you don’t have in a lot of other communities,” Sprague said.

That freedom comes at a cost, one the association is willing to pay.

“Some people don’t understand that Prouts Neck is footing the bill for this,” said Police Chief Robert Moulton.

The exact cost to the Prouts Neck Association is unclear. Sprague said the total cost of the police presence and its cruiser are all included in a larger budget line item for maintenance.

Barker’s salary is negotiated between the association and Barker, and is paid by the association. A first-year sergeant in the Scarborough Police Department earns $701 per week.

Barker has 25 years of service in the Scarborough Police Department as a regular officer, and would be eligible to make much more than that if he were still full time with the department.

While a new police car can cost $22,000 and $4,000 per year to maintain, Moulton said, the association piggybacks onto the police department’s periodic trade-in arrangements. The association picks the department’s best trade-in car, and gives the department Barker’s old car. The difference in value is made up in cash, Moulton said.

As for maintenance, the Prouts Neck patrol car is believed to have less wear-and-tear because it travels at lower speeds and covers shorter distances than the regular police patrol vehicles.

Moulton said there are certain items only police departments are allowed to buy, such as certain vehicle lights or uniforms. The department buys those for Barker and is reimbursed by the association. Most items, he said, are purchased directly by the association.

The Town of Scarborough does pay for departmental and state-required training for Barker, but those are services provided to all reserve officers, Moulton said.

Because he is paid by PNA, Barker is not usually considered available to respond to events outside Prouts Neck, Moulton said, but added that if his services were needed at a particularly serious incident, Barker would be called upon.

“He basically does what any other patrol officer would do in any other part of town,” Moulton said.

“What it really is is community policing,” Moulton said. “They wanted more extensive patrol coverage than the police department could provide.”

“A lot of the roads we have in Prouts Neck are private,” Sprague said. “We like to know that our roads are protected.”

Oak Hill, Eight Corners and Payne Road put heads together

Published in the Current

Despite concerns that there would be a light turnout, 26 people attended the visioning meeting for the Oak Hill, Eight Corners and Payne Road neighborhoods July 9.

Frank O’Hara of Planning Decisions, the South Portland company conducting the visioning study, introduced the project, saying, “you’re here at an early step in a process that’s going to go on in the next nine months or so.”

The topics discussed at the neighborhood meetings will eventually form the basis for a new comprehensive plan for the town, in what O’Hara called “a bottom-up decision process.”

O’Hara began the group discussions by asking whether the Oak Hill, Eight Corners and Payne Road area was a single neighborhood or a group of smaller neighborhoods.

While the discussions revealed that residents tend to think of the region as many smaller areas, the definitions and sizes varied, from the Scottow Hill area down to individual developments.

Other sub-neighborhoods were the Bessey School area, Imperial Drive, Oak Hill, Green Acre, Sawyer Road and the schools, Evergreen, Juneberry Place, Commerce Drive, Green Needle, Aslan Drive and Eight Corners.

Resident Marjorie Rosenbaum asked if Eight Corners was really considered a neighborhood. “Is that where we want kids to walk dogs?” she asked. “I don’t see how we can call places ‘neighborhoods’ that have eight corners.”

Resident Harvey Warren said there is a school and a church at Eight Corners, and the site of the current store also used to be a church, he said. “It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in Scarborough,” he said, adding, “It’s a landmark name. It’s not a ‘residential area,’ so to speak.”

Meeting attendees were then asked to list natural and cultural areas they want preserved. Places listed were the Nonesuch River, the Scarborough Marsh, the conservation area between Sawyer Road and Scarborough Downs, the Eastern Road, the ponds off Haigis Parkway, Leighton’s Woods, Willowdale Golf Course, the elm tree at the corner of the Gorham Road and U.S. Route 1, and the Bessey School. Also on the list were the Portland Farms, Evergreen Farms, Flaherty Farm, a Native American stone calendar, the Libby family cemetery east of Route 114, a small cemetery on Arbor View Lane, Scarborough Downs, Beech Ridge Speedway, the town/school campus, churches, the Widow’s Walk, Hunnewell House, the stream behind the Mobil Mart in Oak Hill, the area that used to be the Port of Maine Airport and the old Danish Village.

Residents were asked to think about what their fears were for the future of the area. Reponses were over-development, loss of greenspace, zoning changes, mall sprawl, crowded schools, taxes, loss of character and special places, more and faster traffic and wider roads. There also was a fear of “Route 1 will look like Saugus,” strip malls, poor-quality businesses, no relationships between the town and developers, no buffers between business and residential land, casino gambling, noise pollution and hunting in residential areas.

Hopes for the future were senior housing, community center, performing arts center, a master plan for the Haigis Parkway, a leash law, narrow roads, a sidewalk on Gorham Road, architectural and design standards, a good office building on Haigis Parkway, sidewalks and trail links between neighborhoods. Residents also wanted neighborhood activities, no tractor-trailers on Route 114, mailboxes on the same side of the road as the house, crosswalks, more greenspace, the best school system in the state, a park in Oak Hill, seasonal town-wide cleanups, additional schools, a “facelift” of Route 1, regional planning, revamped zoning laws, diversion of traffic from Route 1 to the Maine Turnpike and a downtown-like town center.

“We can control what happens to us in the future,” said resident and developer Gavin Ruotolo, recommending building design standards.

Resident and developer Elliott Chamberlain recommended improving the partnership between the town and developers, to achieve town and development goals more effectively.

Because the idea of a “town center” came up in this and previous discussions, O’Hara asked the residents what their thoughts were on the subject, and what a town center would consist of.

“The term itself is an oxymoron,” Warren said.

“Scarborough is unique, having many small individual communities,” said school board member Carol Rancourt, suggesting that other nearby towns would be better homes for people who want a Main Street feel.

Resident Fred Kilfoil, owner of the Millbrook Motel, suggested making more than one town center, one in each neighborhood or section of town. He pointed out that if there is to be a single Main Street-type road, that is not Route 1. However, he said, there are “Main Street” roads in the neighborhoods.

Town Planner Joe Ziepniewski said that town parks were located in each neighborhood for reasons similar to Kilfoil’s. He also pointed out that while Black Point and Pine Point are a very short distance apart on a map, it’s a very long drive from one to the other.

Ruotolo recommended that the developers make small neighborhoods and leave to the town the task of connecting them together.

The discussion then moved to residents’ wishes for areas to be preserved throughout the whole town. Areas listed were the beaches, the fishing boat harbor at Pine Point, the Cliff Walk on Prouts Neck, the Libby Farm, the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge land, the site of the mastodon excavation, the Fuller Farm, the Nonesuch River and the shipwreck at Higgins Beach.

Residents also had hopes for the town as a whole, listing jobs in town, quality of employment, pedestrian-friendly streets, a guide to places of interest, use of the drive-in property as recreational space, public transportation, a town pool and recreation center, safer traffic, controlled and balanced growth and regional planning. They also wanted high-paying clean industries, good town services, good schools, connections between neighborhoods, having neighborhood gatherings or “mini-Summerfests,” a biotechnology research center, 90 percent recycling rate and a footbridge or ferry from Ferry Beach to Pine Point.

Chamberlain said the best part of this process is the fact that people sit down together and talk to each other, working out problems face to face.

The next visioning meeting was scheduled for July 11 for North Scarborough.

The remaining two neighborhood meetings in this series are Tuesday, July 16, at 7 p.m., at the Beech Ridge Farm, for the neighborhoods of West Scarborough and Broadturn Road; and Thursday, July 18, at 7 p.m., at the Blue Point School, for the neighborhoods of Pine Point and Blue Point. All meetings wrap up at 9 p.m.

Stephanie Cox, chair of the town’s Conservation Commission, said all Scarborough residents are welcome at all meetings, and that people who have missed their own neighborhood meetings should attend other gatherings.

There is also a web site chronicling the process so far and providing opportunities for comment. It can be found at

Two businesses burglarized in Cape

Published in the Current

Two Cape Elizabeth businesses were broken into and robbed in the past week. The suspects in both cases are still at large, and police are investigating.

On July 6, just before 3 a.m., two or more suspects used an axe to chop a hole in the roof of the Cape Variety. They stole cigarettes and sunglasses, and gained access to the store’s safe and ATM, said Detective Paul Fenton. He did not disclose the amount of cash stolen.

“It appears as though they were interrupted by the owner of the building, who was returning from out of town,” Fenton said. The owner apparently stopped by to bring a sign in from outside. “There was evidence left behind,” Fenton said.

The department is operating out of a new station, and not all of the evidence-processing equipment is set up yet, Fenton said. As a result, he may ask the Scarborough and South Portland police departments to assist him in analyzing items retrieved from the break-in.

Police also tried to track the suspects, who fled the scene on foot, by using a dog, but the closest available tracking dog that morning was in Windham. The time delay may have aided in the escape of the suspects, who have not been apprehended.

That crime appeared to be organized, Fenton said, unlike the July 9 break-in to the Crescent Beach Snack Shack, which was discovered early in the morning of July 10. Fenton said the beach break-in was likely the work of drunk teen-agers returning from a party.

“It’s all connected to kids partying and drinking,” Fenton said. “Anything that’s in their path home will be destroyed.”

The people who broke into the Snack Shack kicked in a window and got away with some cash, a five-gallon tub of ice cream and several items of candy. Fenton said there was a line of candy and wrappers on the path from the shack to Richmond Terrace, as if the people were just eating it along the way.

That break-in, he said, is a class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. “The problem with the kids is getting worse,” Fenton said. “They’re committing felonies for candy.”

Fenton said the beach incident is reminiscent of the vandalism at the Little League shack at Lions Field, in which drunk teens have done damage to property they pass. He recommended residents call the police if they see unknown teenagers in their neighborhoods after dark.

“People don’t call us,” he said, but vandalism is almost a given if parties continue.

“If kids party and drink in your area, there will be criminal mischief in your area,” Fenton said.

Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Conserve Prouts Neck Black Point, residents say

Published in the Current

About 40 residents from Prouts Neck and Black Point gathered at Camp Ketcha June 27 to express their wishes that natural areas in the neighborhoods be preserved forever.

Most were senior citizens, but the youngest resident in the room was only one month old. Her parents, John and Ruth Hughes, were there, Ruth said, to make sure their opinion was heard in the town’s visioning process.

Erik Hellstedt of Planning Decisions, the South Portland firm hired by the town of Scarborough to conduct the visioning program, explained the process. The town is accepting input from residents and will use that information to update the town’s comprehensive plan, Hellstedt said.

“This is a process where the town is really trying to get ahead of the curve,” he said.

Residents were asked to create lists of features they wanted to keep, and their hopes and fears for the future of their neighborhoods and of the town.

Natural features residents wanted preserved included: Scarborough Beach, Ferry Beach, the Libby River, the Cliff Walk at Prouts Neck, Camp Ketcha, Massacre Pond, bird refuges, clam flats, Scarborough Marsh, the Nonesuch River, the Winslow Homer area, and the Eastern Trail.

Some residents were concerned about Dale Blackie’s proposal for a 92-foot tall condominium building on Pine Point, which they could see from their property or beaches nearby.

“I don’t want towers. No one wants towers,” said one resident.

Many residents were especially adamant about protecting views and natural areas. “It’s a pretty unique little place,” said Liz Maier.

Also of concern were traffic and congestion issues. Jake McFadden said the group he was working with at the meeting, “didn’t want the roads expanded to four lanes.”

Development and taxes were the most commonly listed items in the “fears category,” with other issues including jet-skis, lack of beach access, special exemptions to zoning, lack of strong protection for the marsh, limited school capacity, commercialization of the marsh, and improper use of existing structures.

“We hope we do not lose what we have because we have what we want,” said Margaret Wise.

Residents expressed hope that there would be limited growth and more walking and biking trails, as well as conservation and preservation of more land throughout the town. Many people spoke about a town center, but were divided on what that would mean.

Frank O’Hara of Planning Decisions asked a series of specific questions that illustrated the differences of opinion. Some people wanted an activity center that could serve teens, senior citizens and all residents, which might include a pool and other recreational space.

Others wanted a “Main Street” area, with shops, apartments, churches and a real pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.

Looking out about 20 years, residents wanted many changes throughout he town, but few close to home. They hoped to see continued and strengthened environmental protection, increased volunteerism throughout the community, clean businesses, controlled growth, affordable taxes, connections between the different sections of town, and a town transportation system. Some also mentioned the idea of ethnic and economic diversity.

Affordable housing and specific areas for business development were also suggestions residents made.

The next neighborhood meeting will be held Tuesday, July 9, at 7 p.m., in Town Hall for the areas of Oak Hill, Eight Corners and Payne Road.

Following that will be a meeting, at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 11, for North Scarborough, at South Coast Community Church on Route 11 4 .

The final two meetings will be held the week of July 15 for the neighborhoods of West Scarborough and Broadturn Road, and Pine Point and Blue Point.

Littlejohn neighbors meet to control speeding

Published in the Current

Several residents of Littlejohn Road met with Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Neil Williams last month to discuss the problem of speeders on the residential street. About 20 residents had signed a petition asking the police to help with the problem.

Meeting organizer, Peter Hollingsworth, said he has seen people go by at speeds up to 50 miles per hour. The street’s speed limit is 25 miles per hour.

“It’s just a matter of time before something serious happens,” Hollingsworth said, though he noted that no people have been hit on the road. A dog was killed a couple of years ago.

“I don’t want to be here saying, ‘I didn’t do anything,’” Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth put up a sign in his truck, parked near the street, asking drivers to slow down.

Williams said it was a productive meeting, and the police will cooperate.

“As in most neighborhoods, the people there did understand that it was an issue because of their own creating the speeding,” Williams said.

And, he said, “it’s not kids in this area. It’s adults.”

Williams said the department will continue to do speed enforcement patrols in the area, and perhaps pull over more speeders to warn them they are going too fast.

“Speeding is an issue” throughout the town, Williams said, and no law enforcement agencies have come up with ways to control speeding permanently.

Williams commended the residents’ willingness to work together to solve the problem, but noted that people with complaints about traffic in their neighborhoods don’t need to petition the department for action to be taken. “Just come in and see me,” he said.

Piping for pleasure

Published in the Current

Doug Campbell may have the most understanding neighbors in all of Cape Elizabeth. He is a bagpiper who practices at home.

Sometimes – rarely – he plays the instrument in the back yard. His neighbors tell him they enjoy it, but he worries that could come to an end.

More often, he practices inside, where his family has become so accustomed to the loud noise that nobody bats an eye when he starts to play.

Sometimes, Campbell practices at Fort Williams, but he finds that can be more trouble than it’s worth. When he’s practicing, people come by and consider it an impromptu performance.

They wonder why he’s not wearing his kilt, or why he’s playing one section of a song over and over.

But repetition is the key to perfection, and “it’s hard to do that when you’re outdoors,” Campbell said.

The bagpipe is a deafening instrument indoors, by design. “It’s intended to be played outdoors,” Campbell said. “It demands attention.”

The bagpipes, he said, have a connection to the spirit somehow, and instruments with an air reservoir can be found in many cultures across the globe.

As a result, bagpipes have a unique role at ceremonial functions, including funerals and memorial services. “I played at services after 9/11,” Campbell said, including a service in front of Portland’s City Hall. He also played at Cape’s Memorial Day celebration this year.

His playing started at age 13. And though his last name is Scottish, he wasn’t raised with an appreciation of his Scottish heritage. Instead, he learned about the bagpipes from a friend of a cousin and fell in love with the instrument.

“It sort of came up unbidden,” Campbell said.

He also played guitar at the time, and that ended up taking more of his time. He stopped piping for about 20 years. When his family moved to Maine about 12 years ago, he picked it up again.

“I’d always regretted having stopped,” Campbell said. Though it wasn’t easy, starting over wasn’t as hard as he had feared. “The fingers remembered the patterns,” he said.

He called around and found a teacher in Winchester, Mass., who comes to Maine every two weeks.

“It’s very important to find a good instructor on a bagpipe, because it’s about your technique,” Campbell said.

Breathing to fill the bag, squeezing to create sound, and fingering to make the music are all important and complex. And they have to be coordinated – any error can make a bagpipe squeak and squeal.

“So few people hear (bagpipes) played really well,” Campbell said. “You have four reeds going simultaneously. ”

There are three drones, which make constant tones that serve as the background to the medley, which is played by the chanter.

Keeping the airflow out of the bag steady is the especially difficult part of playing the bagpipes, he said, because it involves keeping pressure on the bag when blowing into it.

In most wind instruments, breathing is crucial to the music. “Your phrasing is connected to your breath,” Campbell said. Not so in a bagpipe. A piper can choose to take short breaths or long ones to keep the bag full. The key is to keep air flowing out of the bag consistently.

If there is too little pressure on the bag, the music starts to sound bad.

Other factors can also affect the quality of the sound, including temperature and moisture changes in the air either inside or outside the bag. When the instrument is not being played, the reeds can dry out.

At most services, Campbell said, the piper plays at the beginning of the service, waits through the rest of it, and plays at the end. After all that idle time, the instrument can sound very strange when it first starts up again.

Practice is the best way to learn to control the bagpipe, which Campbell called “an organism.”

Pipe bands are often a good way to get experience in a group and learn from other pipers, he said, but “there’s nothing in Portland, which is kind of surprising.”

“I enjoy playing solo,” he said. When he needs a group, he can call on his three sons, who are also studying the bagpipes.

For a couple of weeks each summer, the whole family travels to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, to intensively study music and dancing.

The island, Campbell said, is a truer representation of traditional Scottish culture than in Scotland, because it is an isolated island to which whole communities transplanted themselves in the 17th and 18th centuries to escape English persecution.

No strict rules on pledge in schools

Published in the Current; co-written with Kate Irish Collins

Cape and Scarborough schools have no formal policies on the Pledge of the Allegiance – some schools rarely recite it and others every day – and are not worried about the effect of a recent federal court decision declaring the pledge unconstitutional.

In Cape Elizabeth, elementary and middle school students say the pledge daily, according to Superintendent Tom Forcella. At the high school, students hear the pledge recited over the school’s intercom system each Monday morning.

After Sept. 11, some CEHS students petitioned the administration to institute the recitation of the pledge daily rather than just Mondays. Principal Jeff Shedd asked the student government for its advice. In late October, the
student government decided not to recommend any changes.

Shedd said that while the legality of the pledge did not come up in the student discussion, some students did express a concern about the phrase “under God,” which was the crux of the court’s decision to strike down the pledge.

Also under discussion then was whether a student should lead the pledge, or whether someone in each classroom should lead it, rather than having it read over the intercom.

Students at Scarborough High School do not recite the pledge, except on certain special occasions.

Superintendent William Michaud said it is up to each school principal to decide when the pledge is said. It is said every day in the elementary schools, but the intermediate and middle school principals could not be reached for comment before press time due to summer break.

On June 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declared unconstitutional the Pledge of Allegiance, by striking down the 1954 law, which added the words “under God.”

The original pledge, written in 1892, was made part of the U.S. Flag Code by Congress in 1942.

Because the court decision was in the Ninth Circuit, covering seven Western states, as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, the decision does not directly affect Maine. Further, the court has stayed the enforcement of its own ruling, pending further review by the circuit court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

But local school officials are still critical of the court’s decision.

“I think the decision was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. It makes no sense at all,” Michaud said.

“I was – as many people were– very surprised by” the decision, Shedd said.

The case was brought by a California father who is an atheist. He claimed that requiring his daughter to hear the Pledge of Allegiance each morning—including the words “under God”—was an inappropriate endorsement of monotheism by the government.

“The court didn’t apply any proportionality test at all. How does hearing others recite the pledge affect her in any way?” Michaud asked. “How can he think his child is disadvantaged by having to watch others? No child is forced to recite the pledge,” Michaud added.

Shedd agreed, saying that any potential “damage” to someone listening to the pledge would be very small.

“At least the court has stayed the order,” Michaud said.

The Scarborough and Cape town councils and school boards begin each regular meeting by reciting the pledge.

“This is the fourth school district I’ve been involved with where the board starts each meeting with the pledge,” Michaud said.

In late 2001, the Madison, Wis., Board of Education voted to ban the pledge because they believed the words “under God” violated the constitutional separation of church and state. Shortly thereafter, in the face of nationwide outcry, the board reversed their decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not addressed the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, but it has ruled on school prayer. In 1985, the court banned moments of silence in schools for what it called “unconstitutional purposes,” effectively barring mandatory school prayer. That decision did leave the door open for other types of moments of silence. In August 2001, the court upheld a Virginia law establishing a mandatory moment of silence for students to “meditate, pray or engage in other silent activity. ”

Monday, July 1, 2002

Sustainable urban living

Published in BackHome Magazine

I live in an apartment in a small city. The building I live in doesn’t have much of a lawn, but I’m grateful to the neighbors, who keep a nice garden on the other side of the driveway. I can’t choose how my place, or my water, is heated, and electrically, I’m very much “on the grid.” It’s not ideal, but I’m not despondent.

Living close to the land is an important goal. But it’s not fully achievable by everyone. Some of us, myself included, are restricted by financial or family obligations to be in places other than our own back-forty in a hand-built cabin.

That doesn’t mean we should give up, or that we are forced to contribute to urban wastelands. We can still eat whole foods, conserve water and electricity, and try to think green. But there are other things renters can do, within the limits of being tenants, to live more independently of traditional city infrastructure:

-Compost. Someone you know has a garden, or a yard, or even a farm. That person probably has a compost pile. Or ask at your local natural-food store if there’s someone looking for additional compost. Find a container to store your material in. I use an empty spackle can under my sink, and in a previous apartment I used a five-gallon paint bucket I kept on the porch. When the container gets full, take it over to the compost pile and empty it.

-Change built-in bulbs. When I moved in, my apartment had three overhead lights with regular incandescent bulbs. I took them out and saved them, installing instead compact fluorescent bulbs. When I move out, I’ll take the efficient ones with me and put the incandescent ones back in. Or you can leave the efficient ones there and help others see the benefits of saving electricity.

-Walk or bike. City dwelling is great. Some cities, like mine, Portland, Maine, don’t have great public transport. There are a few buses around, though. It’s a small enough city that I can walk or bike nearly everywhere I need to go. I have to drive to work, but when I’m not working I’m not usually driving.

-Turn off the heat. Some apartments don’t really need to have their heat on all the time. Especially in larger buildings, latent building heat can be more than enough to keep an apartment warm through many cold days. If it’s a real cold snap, or you do get chilly, turn on the radiators just a little. When my radiators are on, they pour out heat. I keep them turned down, and use a small, efficient space-heater to bring the temperature up when I need it.

-Grow things. Plants spruce up an apartment and help keep it cooler in the summer. They also enrich the air and improve your health. Herbs are excellent indoor plants and can often fit on windowsills. They’re usually quite hardy, so they can stand up to moves or harsh light and temperature conditions.

-Have a community garden plot. Many cities have community gardens, which allow you a certain amount of space to plant vegetables and flowers for a small annual fee. You get a plot of ground and often access to tools and supplies for raising a small number of crops. It’s not necessarily organic, but at least you know where your food is coming from. It won’t be right in front of your house, but you’ll take a walk every day or so, to check on things. You get to go outside and get your hands dirty, even if you live in a building, like mine, without much greenery around it. Gardens can be great places to meet people, as well.

-Recycle. Many cities have a curbside recycling program. If yours does, participate. If not, start one. You’ll not only save space in your apartment, by no longer storing recyclables until you can drop them off, but you’ll help others in your area become more aware of ways they can help the environment.

-Skip the elevator. You may already do this, but don’t make those exceptions for heavy loads. Take a couple of trips to get your groceries upstairs, or get a friend to help. But be sensible: When you’re moving into or out of a building, don’t try to carry the couch up the stairwell!

-Talk to your landlord or building manager. Explain to prospective landlords that you’re interested in living lightly, and talk about ways you can do so in an apartment building. The landlord may give you a break on the rent if, for example, you say you’ll keep the heat off most of the winter. Suggest that those always-on hallway lights be equipped with energy-saving bulbs. Suggest that the hot water heater not be set so high (many landlords do this to be sure everyone has enough hot water). If your building has laundry machines, suggest that they be replaced (when they need to be) with more efficient models.

-Ask for what you want. If you decide that you really would like to install a low-flow toilet, or no longer need a built-in space heater, say so, and arrange to do the work yourself or have a person approved by your landlord to do the project. Don’t do this without consulting the building’s owner, but remember that if you speak up, others will benefit too.

-See the larger picture. You’re already aware of the impact humans have on the planet. Remember that you can do things to help the planet, even if they don’t help you directly. I try to save heat, though it’s included in the cost of my rent. I use less water, though that’s included too. I’m not saving myself any money, but I am helping the environment. I save cash on electric bills, and that’s nice to see. I also make maximal use of my parking space—I leave my car there when I’m around town.

A government freeze

Published in the International Press Institute's Global Journalist magazine
Reporters are to receive approval (for stories) from their editor, who will obtain National Science Foundation concurrence for all proposed stories to insure [sic] they meet U.S. government standards. — Guidelines for Editorial Employees of the Antarctic Sun.
Except, there are no written standards given by the National Science Foundation. The Antarctic Sun is an information outlet with significant access to the U.S. Antarctic Program, employing professional journalists and reaching members of the general public and even world media organizations. But the NSF sees the weekly newspaper as a “house organ,” analogous to a corporate newsletter providing the company line on events.
“There are times when it is better to not say anything,” said NSF’s Antarctic information manager Guy Guthridge.
Former editors of the Sun, including myself, aren’t so sure, though we agreed to the restrictions as a condition of our employment. Current Sun editors were unavailable for comment.
“There were some NSF managers who took the role as information flow manager to a level that was well above and beyond what was probably good for the NSF and for the people working (in Antarctica),” said Sandy Colhoun, who was the editor of the paper during the 1997-1998 and 1998-1999 austral summer seasons.
Josh Landis was my colleague when we were editors of the paper in the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons. When asked about press freedom in Antarctica, Landis said, “It doesn’t exist.”
Landis qualified that by saying he’s not sure there needs to be press freedom within the U.S. Antarctic Program. “It’s a program to execute a series of goals,” Landis said. That focus, he said, “does create frustrations for journalists,” adding that we learned about restrictions during the hiring process and during employment orientation. “I felt like I knew what the rules were going in,” Landis said.
The Sun’s planning and reporting are similar to any newspaper. Though NSF and program officials would make suggestions about interesting subjects to cover, “they never told us what to write,” Landis said. And Sun reporters do get to travel around the continent at times, reporting on research and logistics at field outposts, though NSF controls who goes where and when.
It is near the end of the production process that NSF’s power becomes clear. The paper publishes a note about itself indicating that it is “funded by the National Science Foundation,” and further saying, “NSF reviews and approves material before publication.”
The senior NSF representative on the continent reviews a draft copy of the paper and has carte blanche to change content and even kill stories before publication. Though some in that position are helpful, all have the power to “kill anything for any reason and there’s no recourse,” Landis said.
Some stories did not get killed, though they might have been. The Dec. 19, 1999, issue discussed severe pollution in Winter Quarters Bay, right next to McMurdo Station. And the Oct. 29, 2000, issue included a picture of a sea urchin using a tampon as camouflage on the sea floor. Both of those stories were about NSF-funded scientific research into Antarctic pollution.
Other stories, though, never see the light of day. Landis secured a series of interviews with people who had wintered at the South Pole with Dr. Jerri Nielsen, the doctor who discovered she had breast cancer while at the Pole in 1999.
“I probably had better access than anybody to get the details of the story,” Landis said. “When the NSF found out about this, it was very quickly ended.”
“I actually ended it when it became apparent that any final version would be so heavily edited for the purpose of removing things that I knew it wouldn’t be satisfying,” Landis said.
January 2002: Artur Chilingarov, a deputy chairman of the Russian Duma and a towering figure in Russian Antarctic research, was stranded at the South Pole because of mechanical problems with his aircraft. A Sun staffer was at the Pole at the time, but the paper carried less than a paragraph about the visit, making no mention of Chilingarov’s name or position.
November 1999: An LC-130H “Hercules” aircraft had to take a 12-hour trip in attempt to land at several runways due to whiteout conditions. The story ran, but with some restrictions. “That story was a perfect example of how censorship can be acceptable,” Landis said. All the facts in the story were accurate, but “I stayed away from certain things that might upset people about the flight,” Landis said, meaning not only officials in the program but employees who needed to get around the continent. “You don’t want everybody flying on a Herc for the rest of the season to be afraid,” he said.
November 1998: An Air National Guard plane went into a crevasse, with no injuries and only minor damage to the plane. “I wanted to get that story out right away, and I wasn’t allowed to,” Colhoun said. He had a photo of the plane in the crevasse the day the accident occurred, but “they wouldn’t let me use it,” Colhoun said, offering a possible explanation: The Air National Guard had just begun taking over Antarctic flying from the Navy, which had flown for the program since the 1950s. Air Guard officials had been reluctant to take Navy advice before the accident, and could have been embarrassed by the story.
Not only the big stories were cut, though. A short piece about a cave of boulders built for McMurdo’s rock-climbing community’s use was struck from the paper in October 2000. No reason was given for the large X on the proof page. Though that was more the exception than the rule, it and the other restrictions provide a look at what governmental control over media can do.
“It’s not an independent publication,” said Valerie Carroll, the Sun’s publisher and communications manager at Raytheon Polar Services, NSF’s Antarctic contractor. “We’re being paid by a client to put out a newsletter-slash-newspaper,” Carroll said.
NSF may have its own publicity plans, she said, and “it wouldn’t look good for us to scoop them,” Carroll said, adding that there are “other perspectives we’re not aware of and don’t need to be.”
Colhoun and Landis offer kudos, though, for some openness on the part of the NSF. “For their culture, for them to allow even what we did was pretty remarkable,” Landis said. “In general, you weren’t censored.”
“The NSF feels like they let you have 70 percent freedom,” Colhoun said. He wanted to show a complete picture of what was going on in Antarctica — good and bad. “That agenda was not the one that the NSF wanted for that product,” Colhoun said. “I was owned by the NSF. They were the editorial power.”
Guthridge agrees. All NSF publications must go through an official approval process, he said. The Sun’s process is streamlined because of the distance and time difference between McMurdo and Washington, as well as the volume of material published in the Sun each week.
“We’re using public dollars here to put out something, and so we’re responsible to the larger public,” Guthridge said. For him, that means keeping some things quiet.
Alex Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, said it is reasonable to expect that the government would spend money on a publication to serve its purposes. But, he said, they run the risk of improving short-term image at the expense of long-term credibility.
“The more frank and open the government is in publications of that kind, the more valuable they are,” Jones said. “The long-term best interests are in being open and honest.”
All parties agree that the Sun is not in the role of watchdog of the U.S. Antarctic Program, though there isn’t any other organization that is or could be. Logistics are the main problem. “Journalists can’t just hop on a plane and go talk to who they want to,” Carroll said.
The Sun staff is based at McMurdo and has limited access to field camps and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, giving them better access to Antarctic information than any other U.S. journalists.
“It’s not meant to be what (a newspaper) is in the world,” Landis said. “NSF gets to control what facts become public.”
Other journalists do come to the continent, after applying to NSF and having their plans approved. Some of these have included staff members from U.S. News & World Report, the Baltimore Sun, and National Geographic.
When journalists do come from outside organizations, Guthridge said, “They do what they want,” Guthridge said.
The time they are allotted, Colhoun said, is often too short for real reporting. Weather delays, survival training, and other commitments can mean there is little time to get into issues of waste or mismanagement on the ice, he said. “The only kind of reports that can come back are happy reports,” Colhoun said.
Guthridge said all signatory nations to the Antarctic Treaty are required to publish annual plans and reports on their activities. Countries can verify that information by appointing observers who have free access to the stations and equipment of other nations. The public, though, has little access to the U.S. Antarctic Program, only experiencing life and work at research stations when in the employ of government organizations or their contractors.
“It’s their show, they make the rules,” Landis said, adding that being more open would help. “More press freedom would create better dialogue in the Antarctic community,” Landis said.