Public Hearings about NECEC Held at UMF

Public Hearings about NECEC Held at UMF

By Darby Murnane & Emily Mokler Assistant Editor & Editor-in-Chief


The public forums provided a platform for discussion about the CMP powerline. (Photo by Emily Mokler)

Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hosted a week-long collection of hearings and two public forums on the UMF campus to address the proposed Central Maine Power (CMP) transmission line during the first week of April. This project, the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), has been met with controversy from Maine residents as both those for and against the project have voiced concern over how the state’s actions will impact the course of climate change.

   The transmission, according to The Portland Press Herald, will run 145 miles from the Canadian border just north of route 27 to Lewiston, ME, and approximately 50-55 miles of this would be newly constructed lines, the remaining distance consisting of existing lines that would be widened by 75-150 feet. Electricity generated by Quebec Hydropower would be carried to Massachusetts via the NECEC to aid MA. in meeting state green-energy standards. The transmission line is set to run directly through Farmington.

   Many Mainers came forward during the public forums on April 2 and 4 to argue in favor of the line and implored the DEP panel members to take timely and productive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Speakers often cited the estimated 12 years the world has to take proactive steps in reversing climate change before it is too late.

   The project is also meant to provide economic benefits to Mainers as workers will be needed for construction. Matt Marks, CEO of Associated General Contractors of Maine (ACG) spoke at the April 6 forum on behalf of his company to argue for the NECEC job opportunities, stating that AGC had lost 10,000 workers in recent recessions.  “More than 5200 megawatts of oil, coal, and nuclear power plants will be retired from from 2013-2022. And another 5000 megawatts of coal and oil fire generation could retire in a couple years,” Marks said. “We need to replace these plants and 1200 megawatts of clean, reliable hydropower delivered to Lewiston, maine will be the region’s  largest source of electricity from clean energy.”

   Conversely, those speaking against the NECEC expressed fear that environmental damage and greenhouse gas emitted by the construction of the line will outweigh the proposed benefits. As an estimated 50-55 miles of land would be cleared to make way for the transmission line, environmentalist opponents argue that the deforestation and carbon dioxide (CO2) released from clear-cut vegetation essentially cancels out what CO2 is meant to be eliminated by the NECEC.

   Tom Saviello, a former Maine Senator, also spoke at the April 6 forum, adding to the environmental debate with his expertise in forestry, having earned a Phd in Forest Resources from University of Maine. “One tree can absorb as much carbon a year that a car produces while driving 26,000 miles. Over the course of a life, a single tree can absorb one ton of carbon dioxide,” Saviello said. “So if we take the 55 miles of the corridor, that’s 150 feet wide and the rest 70 feet wide, we’ll cut a lot of trees which will equate to about 800,000 pounds of car carbon emissions.”

   There was some discrepancy among speakers about how many trees would actually be cut as many in favor of the line argued that the supposedly pristine wilderness through which the line would run is already crossed by access roads, as well as stretches of working forests such as logging ground. Yet those against the line noted that logged forests are able to regrow, whereas land home to transmissions line are routinely sprayed with herbicides to keep vegetation at bay.

   As Saviello testified before the DEP panel, he also commented on Maine’s legal responsibility in addressing climate via environmental law, stating, “We set goals for Maine, not New England. So I do suggest this part of the law should be addressed as part of the site location permit for [NECEC] can be issued.”

Student Activists Make Themselves Known

By Emily Mokler Editor-in-Chief

   In response to the Jan. 28 Bangor Daily News (BDN) article about the experiences of two UMF students after reporting that they had been sexually assaulted, a coalition called Look Us in the Eyes (LUITE) has become an independent movement advocating for “changes with the way the university responds to sexual assault, provide education and work with a wide group of students who feel passionate about sexual assault prevention and Title IX rights,” according to Claudia Intama, an administrator for the Facebook group.

    In the time since the article’s publication, the group has grown to over 260 members, including UMS students, alumni, and faculty.

    Amy Fortier-Brown, a senior political science major, created the group within hours of the release of the BDN article. “I created this group because the BDN article made me feel betrayed by the University. I am not the type to sit and writhe in anger; I instead prefer to use that energy to change the situation. Thus, I decided I wanted to have a protest on campus to bring attention to this issue,” Fortier-Brown said in an email interview.

   LUITE is holding a peaceful protest in a common area on the UMF campus on February 15 at noon “to address the way that the University of Maine System handles sexual assault cases,” according to their Facebook page.

   “I obviously would like to create positive change on UMF’s campus to address sexual assault issues with a holistic approach. This includes improvements at all levels- students, faculty, and administration,” Fortier-Brown said.

   On February 6, one of the first steps of discussing sexual assault on campus since the BDN article was published was a panel hosted by the Campus Violence Prevention Coalition (CVPC) called “Campus Conversations Part One.” At this event, five panelists with various backgrounds came together to answer student questions. Intama, who is also the President of CVPC, worked as a moderator of the event.

    While LUITE is an independent student group, “CVPC is a university sanctioned group of students, faculty and staff that have the same goals in mind,” according to Intama.

   Intama acknowledges the role that the article has played in the increase of discussion about sexual assault on campus. “It really was the BDN article that sparked discussion and action here at UMF.  I am thankful for all the survivors who have been brave to tell their stories, and am glad to see the UMF community rally together to think of ways to increase knowledge, education and training around sexual assault and harassment,” Intama said. “Although the article painted UMF in a not-so-favorable light, the changes that are being talked about now are helpful and positive.”

   There is a bittersweet quality to the student response. “I love that people are involved and excited about this issue, but I am sad that we have to have this conversation. We have been failed,” said Fortier-Brown.

    Intama said that sexual assault “is a national issue, but our community is driven to make sure our university is safe and provides a supporting environment for all who attend here.”

   Fortier-Brown said that she “absolutely believe[s] that there are people here who are pioneers for change and want to ensure that UMF is safe and is living up to our high (and justified) standards. I have no doubt that admin[istration] is working with us to change.”

   Fortier-Brown also said that “if [administration] ever become[s] complacent, we are also here to push them to keep going and support them when needed. Overall, it is striking how well we- LUITE, Staff, and Admin- are working together.”

   Fortier-Brown said, “This is our #MeToo movement. Maine is late to everything.”

   A screening and subsequent discussion of the documentary “The Hunting Ground” was initially scheduled for January 30, but was changed to February 13.

   Students interested in being involved with CVPC may contact Claudia Intama or Jordan Shaw. Students interested in joining LUITE may contact Amy Fortier-Brown at


Jared Golden Holds Town Hall Discussion at UMF

Jared Golden Holds Town Hall Discussion at UMF

By Emily Mokler Editor-in-Chief

Student Aislinn Forbes speaks with Jared Golden. (Photo by John Thayer)

Democratic nominee for the US House of Representatives Jared Golden visited UMF to speak to gathered students and locals about himself and his views.  Golden currently represents Lewiston in the Maine House of Representatives, and is running against Republican incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

Jeffrey Willey, the president of the UMF College Democrats, introduced Golden to the crowd, who took up every seat with some standing in the back of Roberts C23. Golden wore blue jeans and a blue plaid button-down, his tattoo of a cross on his right arm revealed as he held the microphone.

Golden greeted the crowd and mentioned that several other local politicians running for positions in the Maine Legislature were present, including Jan Collins and Scott Landry. Those in the audience could speak to all of them after the town hall. Golden spoke for nearly an hour, and then answered questions one-on-one with audience members.

“It’s not easy being in politics today because of the tough political environment,” Golden said.

Golden was studying at UMF to become a history teacher when 9/11 occurred, which inspired him to join the Marines. He served two combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Golden spoke frankly about his diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after his time in the Marines; “I think most people think of [PTSD] as an incapacitating disease that keeps people from being successful in life, or unable to work, or unable to be a leader in their community, and that’s just not true.”

After being in the Marines, Golden attended Bates College as a nontraditional student. Golden lamented that an ad online took a comment about fitting in as the oldest student at Bates out of context to spin it as though he was embarrassed of his military service. Post-graduation, Golden volunteered at a school in Afghanistan and worked as an aide for Sen. Susan Collins in Washington, D.C.  

Golden also referenced when Gov. Paul LePage said Lewiston lawmakers such as Golden should be “rounded up and executed”, calling vitriol representative of everything wrong with politics.

Golden asked the crowd to raise their hands if they were sick of politicians blaming the other side for political shortcomings. A majority raised their hands. Golden described himself as willing to work across the aisle to heal the deep political wounds in America.

Willey said, “Your vote matters. Your opinion matters. Learning about these people [running] is very important because they are representing your values. If you aren’t expressing your will to them, they won’t listen.”

Willey cited the local example of the 2016 Maine House of Representatives race for the Farmington and New Sharon district. Democrat Scott Landry won Farmington, but incumbent Republican Lance Harvell won the seat with less than 100 votes.

“It doesn’t matter what your party affiliation is, just get out and vote, especially students,” Willey said. “They have this huge voice that they’re not using.”

Mariah Langton, a sophomore Early Childhood Education major, attended the town hall. Langton said, “Voting is one of the most important things I’ll do this year. I want to have a say in who will be representing me and the state in the future!”

The event was organized by the Franklin County Democrats and the UMF College Democrats as a follow-up to a Democratic candidate forum held back in April.

   The midterm elections are being held on November 6th.

Art Installations in Downtown Farmington Created by UMF Students

Art Installations in Downtown Farmington Created by UMF Students

By Emily Mokler – Contributing Writer

UMF students gathered in the alleyways of downtown Farmington to create and perform art as part of the Water Bear Confabulum, an alternative arts festival hosted by the UMF Art Gallery.

The event included a 5k run, with proceeds benefitting local high school students attending UMF who have an interest in both the arts and the environment.

Photo Courtesy of Emily Mokler

Visitors saw the downtown change with art unfolding from UMF students and professionals. Students in a Drawing class drew each other in chalk, an exercise known as blind contouring. Abby Sanborn, a freshman Creative Writing, and Art major was one of the students drawing in the alleyway next to Renys with chalk. Each figure had distinct blocks of color.

Student working on a mural near the alleyway by the Homestead Bar & Bakery on Broadway. Photo Courtesy of Emily Mokler

“The point of the exercise is to draw what our eyes see, not what our mind sees,” Sanborn said as she rubbed the chalk into the wall, building up the vibrant color.

Following the sound of drums led to students dressed as animals, and statues of animals dressed like humans.  AJ Mae, a freshman, wore a gown made of trash bags and set up an installation using reflective, everyday objects ranging from party masks to CDs.

“Different people see themselves in different places and in different ways,” said Mae. According to Mae, the installation was inspired by how “the media frames how we see ourselves, and distorts our expectations.”

Another alley had large charcoal drawings of landscapes, and visitors were asked to smudge the original work into whatever they wanted with bread. A volunteer spoke about exhibits in Bonney Woods. There were interactive installations about asking for phrases

In Bonney Woods,“The Star-Spangled Banner” was playing faintly on the flute. The student playing the flute, who wore a pair of exaggerated legs in silver fabric in a kneeling position, reflected on the recent protests during pro football games.

Returning to downtown, dozens of other students gathered in the alleyway, participating in performance art. There were students dressed as robots, a rose, a punk with a four-foot high mohawk. One woman handed out kind words painted onto cardboard without saying a word. Another asked people to write down what they said when frustrated and place the words inside the empty head of a sculpted child.

Figures in Homestead Alleyway. Photo Courtesy of Emily Mokler

There was a small black dome in the center of the alleyway with a white sheet splattered with red. Pulling back the sheet revealed small LED candles inside. A hand reached out and said, “Keep your softness” while handing out soft plastic stuffing.

The Water Bear Confabulum surrounded visitors visually, auditorily, and mentally with art. To see more photos, search for “The Water Bear Confabulum” on Facebook.

UMF Students and Professor Practice Performing Arts and Playwriting

By Emily Mokler – Contributing Writer

   A dead man rises from the stage and shuffles quietly to the silver curtain behind him as the audience chuckles during a ten-minute play put on by volunteers at the Thread Theater last Wednesday evening.

   The event is held monthly in a renovated hall within a former French-Catholic church in Lewiston, ME. The Thread Theater aims to engage with anyone interested in writing, performing or watching the performances.

   Several UMF students and professor Bill Mesce attended the event, their scripts ready to be performed by volunteers from the audience. The students and Mesce also acted for other plays, gaining a clearer understanding about what it’s like to perform an original work live, as well as what a live audience responds to.

   Carrie Close, a junior Creative Writing major, said, “I learn something every time I go: what works, what doesn’t, how to write better dialogue.”

   The theme of the event was “In the Heat of the Moment.” Some playwrights made sure to have a character drop that title, while others focused on what that theme meant to them. Close’s play “Not One” had two couples go camping while trying to hide their past indiscretions.

   Close said, “I learn about my characters by the way people portray them, that lets me know whether I did a good job of writing my characters or not.”

    Mesce’s play “Billy and John” was about two men who bicker with each other while giving directions to a lost couple. The audience voted the play the best of the night. “I got lucky with the actors I got,” Mesce said. “They worked so well together.”

   The audience became a character in the way it reacted, sometimes roaring with laughter, other times a chuckle, emboldening the actors in the process. Members shouted excitedly for their friends when they were called to perform, and recited the funniest line while high-fiving them on their return to their seat.

    Cameron Gelder’s play about his interpretation of the afterlife ran over ten minutes, which has never happened to him in his two-and-a-half years of attending the Thread Theater. “I told the actors to speak clearly, but they took that as speaking slowly,” Gelder lamented.

   Opposite of the entrance is the stage, brightly lit with a simple table and five chairs. The arrangement of these props changed with each play and cast of characters, from use as an impromptu car to a bed holding quarreling lovers.

    The admission fee was $5 and the bar was stocked with beer and mixed drinks that the audience made use of throughout the evening.

   The next event, with the theme “Stuffed,” will be held November 15th. For more information, search “Thread Theater” on Facebook.