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Literary Death Match returns to Portland

Literary Death Match, the metaphoric fight between four authors, is back in town Friday night  for the fifth time, the four consecutive at SPACE Gallery. The show will be its 344th under the direction of Adrian Todd Zuniga, the creator and game-show style host.9-19-14-TG-literary-Rachel-Flehinger
The four poetic pugilists this time are Amy McDonald, Liz Peavey, Alexander Irvine and Christopher Robley.
Robley is a poet, songwriter, producer and winner of the Maine Literary Award for Short Works — Poetry. Irvine is an award-winning sci-fi/fantasy/comics author of "Mystery Hill" and "The Adventures of Tintin." Liz Peavey is an author and winner of the Maine Literary Award for Drama ("My Mother's Clothes Are Not My Mother"). MacDonald is a children's book author of "Little Beaver and the Echo" and "Rachel Fister's Blister."
They will read their most electric writing for six minutes or less before a panel of three judges. After each pair of readers, the judges take turns spouting hilarious, off-the-wall commentary in the categories of Literary Merit, Performance, and Intangibles. They then select their favorite to advance to the finals.
Bill Lundgren, co-author of "Becoming (Other)Wise" and the reading series maestro at Longfellow Books, will judge Literary Merit. Rachel Flehinger, improviser and DJ, will assess points based on Performance. Steve Burnette, an actor, improv mastermind, and general funnyman will rate the Intangibles.
The two finalists compete in a vaguely literary competition (think Pin the Mustache on Hemingway) to determine who takes home the Literary Death Match crown.
A cool aspect of the bardic battle is that the judges' notebooks are kept and move with the event, from city to city across the world.
For example, Flehinger will get to see the notes from Carrie Coon, a co-star of HBO's "The Leftovers" and a Tony-nominee for her role in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
She was the Performance judge last night at the LDM in New York City, which included
reader Joshua Ferris, whose "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour" (along with Karen Jay Fowler's "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves") was the first American book nominated for Britain's Man Booker prize.
Flehinger, who has taught acting and improv with Acorn Productions and gives workshops on improv for creative business types, hasn't seen a LDM before and is relatively unfamiliar with the four readers, but is amped up for the show.
She just finished a job as morning radio host on WPOR when someone mentioned her as a good candidate for Performance judge to the event organizers.
Despite the hundreds of shows across the globe, Zuniga says it's always something new.
"Sometimes the brand leads," he said about gauging an upcoming bout. "You can trust Literary Death Match to bring together celebrity judges and great writers. But sometimes it's the unknowns."
LDM has had countless nights of clever wits and moving lit. The "death match" is intentionally sensational, and figurative, but there have been two literal deaths connected with the event.
Ned Vizzini, the author of four books for young adults, including "It's Kind of a Funny Story" (named by National Public Radio as one of the top "100 Best-Ever Teen Novels") was a reader one time at a LDM. Vizzini suffered from depression, spending time in a psychiatric ward in his early twenties, and had written several books about the illness. He was only 32 when he died of an apparent suicide.
Sarah Thyre, an actress and writer best known for her role as Coach Cherri Wolf on TV's "Strangers with Candy," was reading at a LDM once, about her friend the writer David Rakoff, who was battling cancer. The theme of her reading that first round was that he just kept fighting and would not die. Thyre approached Zuniga in tears between rounds, telling him she just got news that Rakoff had died.
Friday night's event promises comedy rather than tragedy, with Zuniga always ready to pull out the stops for his favorite city.
He has just finished his second novel, tentatively called "Scramble" and revivified from a 2006 manuscript. His first novel is "Murder, Nevada." Like last time he came to Portland, Zuniga is on the cusp of signing a TV deal for the Literary Death Match series, but he's keeping calm.
"We've got amazing people pushing for it," he said. "But last year I told you it was about to happen, so we'll see."
In the meanwhile, Zuniga takes improv and standup comedy classes, and says hosting LDM is like writing a novel: "You keep your head down, keep going, keep trying to be excellent."

Last Updated on Friday, 19 September 2014 00:57

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Car shuffle for street maintenance could become simpler under city plan

Portland residents on the peninsula will find fewer dates and times to remember when it comes to moving vehicles for street sweeping and other services, based on a parking regulation plan.
The City Council's Transportation, Sustainability & Energy committee meeting on Wednesday recommended a reduction in the number of times residents in several areas of the city will be required to move vehicles for street maintenance.9-19-14-parking-1
"Over the past few years, city staff and District 1 and 2 City Councilors, have been addressing various complaints about the current Peninsula Parking Restriction program," explained a Sept. 12 memo from Michael Bobinsky, director of Public Services. "To address complaints, staff with City Council support, have made adjustments to specific neighborhood area restrictions including implementing daytime parking restrictions for the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood and recently the Parkside area as well. Resident complaints deal mostly with the impacts of frequent moving of parked vehicles to meet the restriction and an observation that municipal services are not consistently provided to warrant the current level of parking restriction. ... Over the past year, staff has been working on a proposal that reduces the parking restriction from the current program where vehicles must be moved 4 times a month to 2 times per month on a street."9-19-14-parking-2
Bobinsky also explained that daytime restrictions will be between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Also, new signs will reflect a "time of restriction" change that will run from 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m., which should be easier to understand than the current 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. restriction, he said.
Approximately 1,700 new parking restriction signs will need to be installed as replacements, Bobinsky wrote. City staff plans to submit the parking ordinance amendment proposal to the City Council for the Oct. 6 and 20 City Council meetings, he wrote.9-19-14-parking-3
John Emerson, utilities supervisor at the Public Services Department, explained that eight service areas are encompassed in the draft plan, which faces City Council review next month.
"We have proposed to use a Tuesday, Wednesday scenario for these sectors for a couple of reasons. Mondays typically fall on holidays and other situations that make it a little more difficult to deliver services. ... The Tuesday and Wednesday scenarios in all the sectors provide the opportunity to provide our service preliminary to trash pick-up in all sectors," he said.
Emerson summarized that residents in Areas 1, 2, 4 and 8 are going to be required to move their vehicles on Tuesdays. Areas 5, 6 and 7 are the areas where vehicle movements will be required on Wednesdays.
The summary of proposed changes includes:
Area 1, which spans from West Commercial Street to the Western Prom and Pine Street to Brackett Street: Twice monthly per side of street. Odd: First and third Tuesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.; Even: Second and fourth Tuesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Area 2, which spans from Commercial Street to Congress Street and Brackett Street to Center Street: Twice monthly per side of street. Odd: First and third Tuesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.; Even: Second and fourth Tuesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Area 3, which is the Old Port: No change (Current: Odd: Sunday 11:30 p.m. to Monday 7 a.m.; Even: Tuesday 11:30 p.m. to Wednesday 7 a.m.).
Area 4, which spans from India Street to Cutter Street and Congress Street to the Eastern Prom: Daytime restriction — Twice monthly per side of street. Odd: First and third Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Even: Second and fourth Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Overnight restriction — Odd: First and third Tuesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.; Even: Second and fourth Tuesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Area 5, which is bounded by St. John Street, Park Avenue, Deering Avenue and Pine Street out to Cassidy Point Drive: Twice monthly per side of street. Odd: First and third Wednesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.; Even: Second and fourth Wednesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Area 6, which ranges from Deering Avenue to Preble Street and from Park Avenue and State Street to Congress Street: No change. (Current: Daytime restriction — Twice monthly per side of street. Odd: First and third Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Even: Second and fourth Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) Overnight restriction — Twice monthly per side of street. Odd: First and third Wednesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.; Even: Second and fourth Wednesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Area 7, which spans from Preble Street to Kennedy Park and from Marginal Way to Congress Street: Twice monthly per side of street. Odd: First and third Wednesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.; Even: Second and fourth Wednesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Area 8, which spans from Kennedy Park to the Eastern Prom and from Marginal Way to Congress Street: Daytime restriction — Twice monthly per side of street. Odd: First and third Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Even: Second and fourth Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Overnight restriction — Odd: First and third Tuesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.; Even: Second and fourth Tuesday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.
"It's going to take a significant educational and media piece," Coleman said.
Five to six weeks likely will pass following council adoption before signs can be replaced.
"The whole project encompasses about 1,700 sign changes," Coleman said. "What we will try to do is within a one-month period ... we will try to get those signs changed, and give individuals in both of the districts and the seven areas impacted a full 60-day grace period, both a 30-day sign change approach and 30-day after sign change approach."
Late December the signs are expected to arrive, Coleman said.
Late spring, implementation would take place, with a phase-in and grace periods, he said.
The plan calls for an adjustment to 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. parking restrictions which "provides an opportunity to get people out of the residential areas and off to work, and provide an opportunity for our traffic control officers to get kids across the street. ... Parkside will not change, Parkside has had this program in place for quite some time," Coleman said.
Coleman said, "Consistency across the board, and a Tuesday, Wednesday approach," are the hallmarks of the proposal.
Councilor Ed Suslovic asked staff to research adding his neighborhood in the vicinity of the old Nathan Clifford School to the twice-a-month scheme.
"I don't believe that they are getting an extra level of service that requires those residents to move their cars every week when on the peninsula they will now be asked to move their car every other week," Suslovic said.
Asked about how this change would affect staff, Bobinsky said, "I think our focus was on the existing peninsula parking restrictions, and these sectors have been identified in the actual parking ordinance in this manner, and frankly we hadn't considered that."
Councilor David Marshall, chair of the committee, said, "When we brought this forward I was hearing a lot of complaints from people living on peninsula that they couldn't find a place to park their car because there's a lot more apartment buildings and a lot more buildings that don't have off-street parking and much higher residential densities. I do not oppose looking at other neighborhoods off the peninsula in order to address this, it's just that we've passed years getting to this point, I'm ready to pass it."
Acting City Manager Sheila Hill-Christian called the proposal a "pilot" but warned of additional time and meetings if the plan is expanded.
Marshall said he preferred that Suslovic work with staff on adding Oakdale to the plan for a full council discussion.
Councilor Jon Hinck supported the changes based on "a long and deliberative approach." He also humanized the travails of residents who try to match up days with time of month for compliance with parking regulations.
Hinck described the challenge of remembering when it's the "fourth Tuesday of the month," prompting rueful laughter.
Councilor Cheryl Leeman agreed, "It's not the day of the week, it's figuring out what day is odd or even after midnight."
Councilor Kevin Donoghue said the proposal tackled a "giant puzzle," and credited staff with adjustments, including the removal of Mondays and later morning hours.
"The problem is defined, that people have to move their vehicles far too often is a problem that was worth our attention, and I'm happy about the energy that you put into it," Donoghue said.
Donoghue asked how the Parkside experiment played out.
"The best idea is a stolen one," John Peverada, city parking manager, said. "This idea was stolen from Cambridge, Mass. ... I can honestly say we got very few complaints from folks."
Leeman said, "Whatever we do to educate and put this in place, I would hope during that transition period we are lenient toward the public until they get acclimated. But great job. This is amazing."

In other business:
• The committee approved a Union and Fore Street loading zone, a change that "will result in the loss of two metered parking spaces and income derived from these meters," city staff reported. "However, additional parking has recently been provided nearby on Fore Street and Middle Street, more than offsetting this adjustment."
According to a staff memo, "DPS (Department of Public Services) and Parking Division are sponsoring a request from the management of the Hyatt Place Hotel located at the corner of Fore and Union Streets. They are asking that from 100 ft. to 140 ft. from Fore Street on the east side of Union Street be changed from two hour metered parking to a commercial loading zone."
• The committee recommended a change to the parking schedule on Forest Avenue near the Congress Square Apartments and Westin Portland Harborview.
Metered spaces will be replaced with a designated 15-minute drop off/pick up spot for residents living at Congress Square Plaza Apartments and for emergency vehicles, per the recommendation.
Kathleen Conway, Congress Square Plaza Apartments assistant manager, wrote, "We are working along with Unified Parking Partners and Westin Hotel hoping a solution to the congestion on High Street with the Valet parking can be alleviated. Several years ago, the spaces/meters listed above were designed this way. If the city would consider replacing the spaces as indicated above, we will be able to allow the hotel access to our private parking lot for the valet service that they provide for their patrons.
• Residents and business owners requested a Fox Street two-hour parking zone for the south side of Fox from the North Boyd Street trail to Anderson Street. City staff reported that requests for three-hour parking could not be accommodated in the city's parking schedule.
Cynthia Cochran, a local resident, said, "The congestion caused by three or four tractor trailers monopolizing that parking space for five or six days at a time really causes a problem for people trying to use the field."
Traffic is "pouring over into business parking lots across the street," she said.
Cochran raised the concern that motorists might receive tickets for parking for a game or other event that stretched beyond two hours.
Peverada said, "If you play it out, most of the people using that field are going to be using it on the weekend, we're not going to be around on Saturday and Sunday down there, and late in the day we're not going to be around."

The committee endorsed the proposal.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 September 2014 00:56

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Westbrook public safety official leaving for private sector

Westbrook Public Safety Director Michael W. Pardue has declared his intention to return to the private sector as of Oct. 10, and Janine Roberts, a retired commanding officer with the Portland Police Department, will be named Interim Chief of Police and will begin her work on Sept. 29, Mayor Colleen Hilton announced Wednesday.
"Mike has been a true professional and a wonderful presence in our Community throughout his tenure and in keeping with that assessment has worked with us on his transition which has allowed us to simultaneously name our interim leadership team," Hilton said. "Chief Pardue's eventual return to the private sector was not unexpected. We are grateful for his service and wish him continued success."
Hilton continued, "We are very excited that Chief Roberts has agreed to join us. We know her to be an award winning leader in the arena of community engagement and someone that has inspired the men and women under her command in difficult assignments such as running the tactical enforcement unit in Portland. We look forward to great things under her leadership."
Deputy Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte will lead the Fire Department as Interim Fire Chief, the city reported.
"Turcotte who joined the department in 2014 has quickly earned a reputation for being a consensus builder and we are pleased to afford him this opportunity," a city press release reported.
The city of Westbrook remains committed to the combined Public Safety concept and will begin the process to fill that permanent position as Public Safety Director in the coming weeks and months, the press release reported. City officials expect both Chief Roberts and Chief Turcotte to apply.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 15:08

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Pimps, vigilantes: McClaran shares exploits in law enforcement

William "Sonny" Sonetti was a tough-talking gun-carrying pimp, looking to buy drugs for his "girls," and getting to know the ins and outs of South Philadelphia's heroin network. He tooled around in his big blue Buick, buying from anyone who was selling.9-16-14-MN-mcclaran

After a year and a half in Philly, he headed to Detroit, always looking for a reliable supply to keep his prostitutes happy.

Sonetti was the alter ego of Bill McClaran, an undercover agent with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the forerunner of the Drug Enforcement Administration. This street persona kept him working 70 to 80 hours a week and prevented him from spending time with his wife and two young daughters, time that would never be recaptured.

He did reconnect with his two daughters later in their lives, and they have remained close. His son was born when he was 50. It was a second marriage, a new career, and he had more time to devote to his home life. McClaran was a tough cop with a very gentle soul. His descriptions of his family life have great poignancy.

McClaran has an exciting background that he's sharing with the public in a book he's written with Frank O Smith titled, "Sonny Days," a memoir of his life. The subtitle is: "The dark side journey of an undercover narc into the light of community policing."

McClaran has just started his 37th year of teaching courses in criminal justice at Southern Maine Community College. Many of his former students are now in the law enforcement field. He has plenty of colorful "war stories" to impart to the students, in addition to the knowledge he's gained from his many years in the different aspects of law enforcement.

Regarding his teaching career, McClaran said, "I like challenges. I get new students every year. The subjects I teach may be the same but the students are all different and have different needs. I love it!" He says he no plans to retire at this time.

Lt. Bob Doherty was one of McClaran's students, and he says, "He's an exceptional teacher. He has a wealth of knowledge and draws on his vast experience."

McClaran almost didn't go into police work because he was told he lacked a quarter of an inch in height when he first applied to become an officer in Grand Rapids, Mich. He managed to come in exactly at 5 foot 10 inches the second time he went in to be measured. He then had the requisite height and joined that force.

After getting a BA in police administration, McClaran applied for two jobs: One was with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the other was with the Central Intelligence Agency. Both agencies accepted him, but the Bureau of Narcotics offered him a job first, and he took it.

McClaran was only 30 when he was chosen to head a police department in Harvey, Ill. His next chief's job was in Benton Harbor, Mich. Both of these cities had a history of racial tensions.

McClaran had to deal with riots, vandalism and looting in 1968, after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., when many long-simmering hostilities exploded — literally — with Molotov cocktails and firebombs.

In 1972, an ad in Police Chief magazine brought McClaran to Portland, to interview for the job as chief. He got the job and became the youngest chief, at age 36.

Many changes were instituted in Portland under McClaran's leadership. The structure of the department was reorganized, and he brought with him a new approach to policing. He wasn't solely focused on catching the bad guys, and he put more emphasis on community relations and community service.

An evidence room was set up along with a basic crime lab. The state's policy was changed so that Portland would have jurisdiction to investigate murders occurring in the city. A peer review process was set up, and psychological testing of candidates applying for police positions was initiated. It was also McClaran's decision to hire the first women as officers.

It seems hard to imagine, but in the summer of 1974 a Portland officer was trying to form a "death squad," to kill people who had "no value to society." The people he tried to enlist wound up testifying against him, and after much legal wrangling he was tried and sentenced for solicitation of murder.

McClaran continued his education and received an MBA from University of Southern Maine. After teaching some night courses at SMVTI (now SMCC) in 1977, McClaran wanted to teach full time. When offered a job at the college, he retired as Portland's chief in 1978.

At this point he'd also decided he wanted to stay in one place, and that place was Maine. In 1985, McClaran decided to get a PhD, with the topic of his dissertation topic being a comparative study of police training in Maine and the British Isles. A sabbatical of a semester was used for doing field research abroad.

In 1988, he proposed a study-abroad program within the criminal justice department, which was accepted by the school. For this course McClaran took 20 to 30 students to Britain for nine days during spring break. After five years the course moved to Ireland. It is still an ongoing feature of the school's curriculum.

McClaran's philosophy toward police work has always been that the job is a public service. He wanted to make the police part of the community, not separate from it.

Events in Ferguson, Mo., earlier this year have shown that this is still an important philosophy today, he said. McClaran said that from what he's read about the situation in Missouri, "there was not a lot of positive community involvement."

McClaran feels that the police "culture" has certainly changed in many departments. He says, "Most people in the community are law-abiding, and we need their help."

In discussing the role of community policing he said, "The idea came to me when I was a patrolman but I couldn't articulate it then." He knew that the police were not as close to the public as they should be.

"If you can prevent crime rather than react to it, you're going to have a much safer community," McClaran said.

Last Updated on Monday, 15 September 2014 23:31

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GreenFEST combines music, food, environmental message

Monument Square was the site Saturday for the first edition of GreenFEST, organized by recent college grad Zoe Croft, and the Greater Portland Sustainability Council.9-16-14-TG-green-Truth-about-Daisies

Croft just returned to Maine from Appalachian State in Boone, N.C., with a degree in nonprofit public relations and sustainable development. She was born and raised in Cape Elizabeth, and the project — her first for the GPSC — is a welcome homecoming for her.

"I'm drawn to this scene," she said of Portland. "It was a no-brainer to come back here after college. I love the four seasons, and this community fosters these things (like GreenFEST) and takes it to another level."

The event mixed music and food with environmental messages from such companies as Garbage to Garden, the Portland Food Co-Op, Brightbuilt Home, Maine Standard Biofuels, and Grandyoats. Workshop presenters included The Resilience Hub, The Honey Exchange, Maine Green Power and Friends of Casco Bay. The library showed environmentally friendly films like "The Lorax" and "Bag It."9-16-14-TG-green-Zoe-Croft-organizer-of-GreenFEST

The music stage was filled by folks like Rapper Ashley, Truth About Daisies, and the Jason Spooner Band. The day finished with an Eco-Poetry Showcase that beat the rain and headed indoors to MJ's Winebar.

For more about the council and its events, visit https://gpqlc.sharepoint.com/Pages/GreaterPortlandSustainabilityCouncil.aspx.

Last Updated on Monday, 15 September 2014 23:36

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