This was the most impactful legislative session in recent memory for advancing policies to protect our environment, promote a green energy industry, and fight climate change.
As a member of the Environment & Natural Resources Committee, I believe combating climate change is vital to preserving Maine’s natural resources-based economy and our overall way of life.
That’s why we passed laws to invest in local clean energy projects, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, stabilize energy costs and support good paying green energy jobs.
This past July, I spent almost an entire month in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Why? To take on a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
The Victory Institute and the David Bohnett Foundation named me a leadership fellow and awarded me a full ride scholarship to graduate from the Senior Executives in State nd Local Government program at Harvard.
This 3-week leadership development program was transformational. It was a balance of traditional and hands-on learning experiences to help fellow public officials better address the concerns of our constituents and communities.
Since 2015, I’ve provided scholarships to students throughout our local community. My nonprofit scholarship fund at Thornton Academy and Old Orchard Beach High School has provided over $5,000 worth of scholarships so far. And we’re just getting started.
My objective with the scholarships has been to empower the next generation into leadership and service.
To ensure young people follow their passions along a path that best fits their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Sure, a $500 scholarship might not seem much when it comes to tackling the ever-increasing cost of higher education, but every little bit goes a long way.
It’s been an honor getting to meet talented and passionate students who are limitless in their pursuit of their education.
Every year, I gain a more positive outlook for the future because of them. They inspire me to do and be better.
We marked a new era this past session of the legislature. The statehouse was filled with something it hasn’t had in over eight years; civility, respect, and mutual cooperation.
I haven’t had the best situations to compare it to. The only Governor I’ve ever known while serving in the legislature has been Gov. Paul LePage.
Sadly, this is a bad example of what is required in a position of leadership. It was the epitome of fear-based politics that erodes the very fabric of the institution itself. I vividly remember Republican legislators being yelled at and bullied behind the scenes to vote with the Governor over common sense, values, and facts.
One even was brought to tears over the treatment and that was on the same side of the proverbial aisle. It threw a wrench into any hopes of bipartisanship agreements and instead replaced with daily unnecessary drama.
What a difference an election makes. This session was entirely a complete 180 thanks in part to the leadership of Gov. Mills, Senate President Troy Jackson, and Speaker of the House Sara Gideon.
After pulling my first all-nighter since college, we worked nearly 24 hours straight until 6:45 a.m. on the final day of session to finish the people’s business. As I recovered from sleep deprivation, I’ve been reflecting over the positive outcomes over the last six months.
Long lines. Waiting in the cold. Shoving. Throngs of people. Images of Black Friday can literally terrify people. As someone who has spent many a Black Friday hunting for the best deals for Christmas gifts, it can be an exhaustive mess navigating the chaotic annual occurrence.
There is an alternative. One that is more positive and that deviates from the traditional Big Box stores we too often rely on. It’s called Small Business Saturday. It arrives the day following Black Friday and is aptly named to focus on the smaller establishments among us that deserve our business.
Last year, I learned that patients in Maine could effectively be denied access to the licensed health care provider of their choice when a woman from Old Orchard Beach, Mary, shared her health care story with me. Mary suffers from Lyme Disease - an infectious disease that is becoming increasingly more common in Maine. Yet, she had difficult time finding doctor who specializes in Lyme treatment that would also be covered by insurance. After finding a naturopathic doctor that worked for her, she was excited to learn that Affordable Care Act required naturopathic doctors to be covered by insurance. Unfortunately, her private insurance representative told her that, while the naturopathic doctor was a covered provider, her specific insurance policy did not cover naturopathy.
I had a dream most of my life – to run a nonprofit organization. In summer 2013, I made it a reality.
The Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement was born out of a need to house creative community service projects that didn’t quite fit within the area’s existing nonprofits; projects and initiatives that I and others in the community always wanted to do but didn’t have an outlet for.
Now, five years and countless fundraisers and projects later, we are saying goodbye.
Saco will soon be home to a brand-new ice cream parlor…with a twist.
The Saco Scoop is opening this Saturday and is located at 209 Main Street. The twist? It’s not just about the delicious Shain’s of Maine ice cream and Seadog Biscuits being served, it’s also about the side order of community.
This is a project of Saco Main Street and the brain child of Rob Biggs, our executive director.
Saco Main Street is Saco’s downtown development organization. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, independent from the city, that is designated as a Main Street - Maine Community by the Maine Downtown Center and as a National Main Street program. Our organization focuses on promotions and marketing, design and preservation, economic development and volunteer organization to revitalize and improve Saco’s historic downtown area.
In order to fully enhance the effectiveness of our mission, we needed a community hangout, a place to go a socialize with your neighbors and promote all Saco and our downtown has to offer. An equal component of this ice cream shop will center around community engagement. We will offer information on all of our downtown businesses and an opportunity to discover how to plan out an amazing 48 hours in Saco. For tourists and residents alike. Sometimes finding out what’s in your own backyard is equally fun.
The history behind the space is noteworthy. The Saco Scoop is in the original Atkinson furniture store building. Former Saco Mayor Bill Johnson’s wife Mary’s grandfather HP Atkinson, sold furniture in the early 1900s in the exact same space. H.P. Atkinson was the founder of the Atkinson furniture company. We will have photos on the wall of Saco then and now. Reinvigorating a space with so much history is downtown revitalization at it’s best. We hope to transport you back in time and connect with Saco rich, dynamic history.
Saco Main Street just finished creating the new community park next to the Post Office, so having this new ice cream shop right next door is a perfect combination to attract folks to eat, shop, and live in our downtown. Making the downtown a walkable destination with things to do in the evening is a critical element to the future vibrancy of our entire city. When your downtown does well, your whole community does well.
Aside from ice cream, the Saco Scoop will offer merchandise from our area schools, like Thornton Academy. Alumni that come in for reunions for instance will now have a one-stop-shop for all things TA. Perfect timing for all my classmates coming in for my 10-year reunion from Thornton next year! I could use an extra maroon and gold sweatshirt myself.
All of the proceeds of the shop will stay within the community through our nonprofit. It will be put towards the good work we are doing to attract new business development, support and promote the existing businesses that are here, enhance the quality of downtown through service projects, and continue to put on free family-friendly events for all ages.
So that scoop of ice cream doesn’t just fuel your soul, it will fuel our community. Hope to see you at our grand opening this Saturday at 10AM!
As Memorial Day weekend is upon us, it’s important to reflect on the true meaning of the day and what is being done to support those who put their lives on the line. It’s easy to take the weekend for granted as just an additional day off, but we must not lose sight of the heroes among us.
I come from an extended military family. Cousins, uncles, grandfathers, you name it, I have a family member who has served in various branches of the Armed Forces in various wars and conflicts. It makes me proud that they have chosen this particular way of serving our country.
While we can always do better in society on this front, there is good work taking place in our community to support our veterans.
For instance, we have some exciting news in Old Orchard Beach. Veterans will now be able to park for free, with their veterans plates clearly displayed, in any town lot or space with a parking meter on Memorial Day itself.
Memorial Day weekend is usually the official start to the summer tourism season, so naturally it’s a time to put up the parking meters. The least we could do on the day itself is to let veterans park for free. After all, the parade and the ceremonies are for them and honoring the memory of their fallen comrades.
This week the Masons, Saco Lodge No. 9, delivered dozens of bikes to students at Fairfield, Young, and Burns schools for the third year in a row.
I was honored to be there alongside the Masons as the bikes were randomly distributed at school assemblies to some very deserving kids. It was especially neat to see how the kids cheered for their fellow peers even when they knew they weren’t going to get a prize. It demonstrated that it wasn’t just about them, but about seeing their friends succeed and be happy – such an important life lesson for all.
The Saco Bikes for Books program achieves two very important missions. Number one it promotes childhood literacy and gets kids excited for reading tangible books. Young School, for instance, reads a combined total of well over 500 books. Keep in mind this is above and beyond any work currently being done in the classroom. Number two it gets kids outside. In this day and age of smart phones and eyeballs glued to some type of device, these bikes represent a catalyst to get outside, breathe the free air and smell the roses. Ok, maybe not that last one, but you get the point. It’s the idea of being kids again and not reliant on technology to keep yourself entertained.
This all culminates into the Saco Community Bike Rodeo this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Saco Public Works Facility on North Street. It’s a fun, free, family event with bike safety checks, a bike course, helmet safety station with free fittings, Touch a Truck, raffles, wellness vendors and and more. The kids who won bikes at school can pick them up and everyone is encouraged to bring their bikes to participate. If you would like to donate a bike or scooter or nonperishable food, organizers will be collecting donations to distribute to those in need. I’ll be there with Saco Main Street, so be sure to stop by and say hello.
Beyond the Headlines
Weekly Column featured in The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Newspaper by Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco