Written by David Carkhuff
Turmoil surrounding student-athletes and other teens caught drinking in Westbrook resurfaced this week when Westbrook Police arrested two teens and summonsed nine young people after breaking up a house party.
On Tuesday, April 22, at approximately 11:40 p.m., Westbrook Police were dispatched to Sargent Street after receiving a complaint of a "loud large party" at one of the residences on the street, police reported. Officers responded to the Sargent Street area where they observed people running from 6 Sargent St., police said.
Officers met with Ryan Gilligan, who represented himself as a resident of the Sargent Street home and the person responsible for, and in control of, the residence, police said. Gilligan told officers he was 18 years of age, police said.
During their investigation, officers encountered 12 additional people, all under the age of 21, in the residence. Subsequent investigation determined that several had consumed alcohol, police said. The following people were charged:
Gilligan, 18, arrested for refusing to submit to detention and furnishing a place for minors to consume liquor; Owen Gillis,18, arrested for refusing to submit to detention and summonsed for consumption of liquor by a minor; and Colin Joyce, 18, Briana Ibarguen, 19, Brett Goodnow,18, Tristian Savage, 18, Cale Bollig, 19, and Shawn McKeough, 19, all summonsed for consumption of liquor by a minor.
In addition, three juveniles (under the age of 18) were summonsed for consumption of liquor by a minor. Westbrook Chief of Police Michael Pardue said the investigation into this matter continues.
The Westbrook School Department Policy Committee will meet on Monday, April 28, at 6 p.m. at Central Office, and it's possible this committee will address the subject as well.
WGME-13 reported that Superintendent Marc Gousse said "there will be accountability, without question, without exception," and reported that the community is waiting to see, "because last fall when about 30 students got accused of drinking, the school made a controversial decision to overturn their suspensions. Many of the athletes then got to play in their games."
On Nov. 13, 2013, Gousse spoke about what was then a "recent incident at the high school involving student athletes" that was being reviewed along with the school's code of conduct. He also said he ordered an internal review of the incident.
Ray Richardson, a Westbrook resident and parent, said, "My greatest fear is our community is going to be defined by tragedy."
Richardson, a radio talk-show host on WLOB Radio, said, "What we have here it appears in my opinion is kids who aren't learning lessons and don't understand that there are consequences for their actions because the truth is there haven't been previously."
Part of the problem, he said, is some parents "have boundary issues."
"They've instead argued with the school so they could continue to play sports and be involved in other activities," Richardson said.
"We're heading into prom season, we're heading into graduation, and it's a great worry. I have a senior daughter and it's a great worry her going off to prom and some of these kids saying, 'You know what, I know I'm not supposed to drink but I'm going to do it anyway.'"
Citing the warning: "Drinking and driving leads to death," Richardson said he has had a couple of friends killed by drunk drivers.
"We can stick our heads in the sand and say, 'Kids will be kids,' or we can act like parents and adults," he said.
"I'm not blaming the schools for this issue, in our community, and in a community I love, some parents have abdicated their responsibility and decided to let their kids run wild at the expense of other kids in the community," Richardson said.
Efforts to contact school committee members and administration via email were unsuccessful.
Last Updated on Friday, 25 April 2014 00:36
Written by David Carkhuff
A thief who snatched an envelope of money from a souvenir store employee on Commercial Street Wednesday morning spurred a K-9 tracking effort and an arrest at nearby One Portland Square — and apparently attracted the attention of members of a traveling circus.
"Speak to me, Portland! Kora Circus performers reported they were routed around an ongoing bank (?) robbery this morning wherein a masked, caped, blonde-ponytailed thief slipped the PPD's grasp in a nearby parking lot, getting into a U-Haul truck or some such. Anyone know anything???" wrote Michelle Souliere, owner of The Green Hand Bookshop, 661 Congress St., on her Facebook page.
Initial reports of a bank robbery were unfounded, according to Portland Police Lt. James Sweatt, who said some of the circumstances surrounding the incident — including where the suspect was apprehended — led to initial incorrect reports of a robbery. Also, the victim thought he had been robbed, and reported as such to the police, when in fact no force had been used, Sweatt said.
The suspect, whose identity has not been released by police, snatched the envelope of money out of the hands of an employee of the 207 Commercial St. gifts and souvenir store, Shipwreck & Cargo. Sweatt said the suspect, identified only as a Portland transient, grabbed the money as the employee was leaving to make a bank deposit.
A K-9 was brought in to track the suspect, and police apprehended the suspect at One Portland Square.
Local media initially mistook the incident as a robbery, Sweatt said. Then the Kora Shriners, performing at the Cumberland County Civic Center, apparently witnessed the incident.
"Every year when the Kora Shriners come to town, the ringmaster comes to my bookshop. ... He goes to bookshop and the crypto museum (International Cryptozoology Museum) every year," Souliere said.
"It was just in conversation with him, he learned something surprising about Portland every time he comes here," she said.
There were no indications that the suspect was wearing a cape or mask, and police apprehended the suspect, so there was no escape via U-Haul truck, according to the police report. Still, the incident sparked the interest of the circus personnel.
"When you seize the attention of circus performers you know there are some antics going on," Souliere said.
Last Updated on Friday, 25 April 2014 01:48
Written by David Carkhuff
The Friends of Congress Square Park announced in a press release that they are collaborating with SPACE gallery to coordinate a series of events to occur in Congress Square Park from April 28 through Aug. 31.
Another partner in this public square revitalization effort is the Westin Portland Harborview — despite an ongoing conflict over use of a portion of Congress Square.
Bruce Wennerstrom, general manager of the Westin, said in the press release, "The Westin is looking forward to working with the Friends of Congress Square Park to create a lively and safe public space for the summer. We are discussing co-sponsoring one or two events."
In an interview, Wennerstrom added, "It's just a matter of working together as neighbors, let's face it the park can be cleaner and it can be safer than it's been, so it benefits everyone."
The city has proposed to sell 9,500 square feet, the majority of Congress Square Park, to RockBridge Capital, owners of the Westin, and retain 4,800 square feet of the park as a part of the effort to redesign the space. RockBridge proposes to use the park to build a 9,400-square-foot events center off the hotel. The 4,800 square feet remaining of the plaza, which does not include the sidewalks, will be the subject of a redesign and visioning process, based on the proposal.
This proposal galvanized the Friends group into forming and launching an initiative aimed at halting the sale and protecting parks.
The Friends of Congress Square's citizens initiative is aimed at expanding what can be included in the city's land bank; designating 35 public spaces for inclusion in the land bank; and requiring a super majority vote by the council to sell any of the spaces and call for a referendum if the vote margin is less than 8-1. If the vote is less than eight members of the council, a proposed sale will be put to a referendum.
The proposed ordinance would effectively nullify the purchase and sales agreement between the city and RockBridge Capital that would allow the hoteliers to acquire two-thirds of Congress Square Park.
The vote is Tuesday, June 10.
Wennerstrom referred questions about the proposed sale to city officials, but he confirmed the hotel is joining the effort to revitalize the plaza.
"Despite our differences, we're working together," he said.
The hotel, which recently re-opened under the Westin banner following a wholesale renovation, is "doing great," Wennerstrom said.
The Friends of Congress Square on Thursday announced the summer long event series which "will include a variety of community activities such as dance performances, art interventions, live music and community gatherings."
A press release noted, "The group raised private funds to cover the costs of the events and to pay for important amenities for the park, such as movable tables and chairs. In addition, the funding will allow for Congress Square Park to become Portland's first-ever public wi-fi hotspot."
The Friends are announced a "Bench Lunch event with Small Axe," occurring Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and Dinner in the Park with Small Axe, on Wednesday through Friday evenings 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Chris Moore, a member of the Friends of Congress Square Park Events Committee, said in the press release, "My wife and I used to love to come to this park for movies and dancing when it was programmed in the past. We are thrilled to help revitalize this important public space through community programming once again and important amenities like movable tables, chairs, wi-fi, and a food truck. The FoCSP and SPACE will have a great line-up of events throughout the summer – family focused events, swing dancing, movies, and funky art projects to name a few. We hope people return time and time again."
SPACE has also commissioned a 20 X 20 cedar bench by artist Michael Clyde Johnson to provide seating and lounging area for visitors to the park. The bench will be in the square until Aug. 31.
Last Updated on Friday, 25 April 2014 01:48
Written by Craig Lyons
Local law enforcement agencies are setting up shop on Friday and Saturday to help residents dispose of unwanted and unused prescription medications.
The Portland Police Department and the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office are participating the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. The drug take back is an effort spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Administration and local police departments to help rid communities of unwanted, unused or outdated prescription drugs.
Portland Assistant Chief Vernon Malloch said leaving old medications around the house can pose safety concerns, and increases the chance of children or pets getting into them or heightens the risk of someone taking the wrong medication. He said if it's a drug people abuse, like many painkillers, it can be dangerous having them around.
"You want to get that out of your house as soon as you don't need it," Malloch said. "This gives folks a way to get rid of it."
The take back is a safe way to get those medications out of the house, Malloch said, and environmentally friendly since those items shouldn't be flushed down the toilet because it will damage household plumbing and the sewer system.
The medications collected are turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which disposes of the medications, Malloch said.
Malloch said no questions are asked when the prescription or other over-the-counter medications are dropped off. He said the only items that will be turned away are sharps.
On Friday, the CCSO will set up in the Back Bay parking lot from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. collecting medications. Non-perishable food items will also be collected for the Preble Street Resource Center.
• Rite Aid Plaza, 290 Congress St.
• Maine Medical Center parking lot, 22 Bramhall St.
• University of New England, College of Pharmacy building, 716 Stevens Ave.
• Riverton Community Center, 1600 Forest Ave.
• Cumberland County Sheriff's Office lobby, 6 County Way.
• Portland Police Department lobby, 109 Middle St.
Both the CCSO and the PPD have permanent drug collection boxes at their stations.
Malloch said the department has found that people are using the disposal box at the station and it's usually emptied once a week.
Last Updated on Friday, 25 April 2014 00:47
Written by David Carkhuff
The title says it all: "Parenting in the Age of Legalization."
"Parenting in the Age of Legalization" is the name of a community forum, planned for Wednesday, April 30 at 7 p.m. at South Portland High School, and the reference to an "age of legalization" also appears to be an acknowledgement that marijuana legalization advocates are gaining ground.
The South Portland Police Department promoted the community forum this way: "South Portland is on the list of communities that will be targeted by the Marijuana Policy Project for legalization efforts. No matter what your position is on legalization, most of us can likely agree that we don't want our teens to be using marijuana and other illicit drugs."
David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, stated that South Portland, Lewiston and York are all on the docket for a November referendum push to legalize the substance.
Next week's forum, sponsored in part by the Opportunity Alliance, a community health network comprised of 50 integrated community based and clinical programs, telegraphs the changing demographics in its promotional material.
"Marijuana: The Landscape Has Changed," reads the poster for the event, which is promoted as a "conversation on preventing teen substance use."
With the wind at his back, Boyer isn't sitting back and waiting for the fall elections, however.
He said the Marijuana Policy Project has created a Facebook presence, called Regulate Marijuana in Maine, and this arm of MPP plans to operate a booth at the Maine Republican Convention in Bangor on Friday and Saturday.
"This weekend I'll be up there with volunteers manning a booth explaining that marijuana is safer than alcohol and it doesn't make sense to punish adults" for partaking of pot, Boyer said Wednesday.
Politically, neither major political party has embraced marijuana legalization, observers note, but Democrats seem closer to the issue, based on recent legislative actions.
Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, gathered 35 state lawmakers as co-sponsors of LD 1229, an "Act to Tax and Regulate Marijuana," which sought to legalize the possession and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, according to the bill summary, and limit personal use to 2.5 ounces and six plants. The bill failed, but Russell at the time noted that it made more progress than previous efforts.
Boyer, who said he is a registered Republican, watched legislative action on the marijuana legalization issue in Maine, and saw about two thirds of Democrats backing the concept, while about a third of Republicans climbed on board. But he said the number of Republicans appears to be climbing, and he has tailored a pitch for the GOP's weekend convention.
"The war on drugs is big government at its finest, it's an expensive program, it doesn't work.
To me Republicanism is fiscal responsibility and social tolerance," Boyer said.
"I think we should have a warm reception at the convention this weekend, and I'm sure we'll have plenty of great receptions with people who agree with us and also those who don't agree with us," he said.
Tom MacMillan, chair of the Portland Green Independent Committee, and a candidate for State Representative in the West End, District 38, said the issue of marijuana legalization isn't going away.
"I think marijuana legalization is going to be a story until it gets legalized," he said, and then will come a period of rulemaking. This could be similar to what happened with medical marijuana in Maine (the Maine Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services oversees the voter-sanctioned Maine medical marijuana program).
Last year, the Portland Green Independent Committee drafted an ordinance and filed a petition affidavit with the Portland City Clerk to remove the criminal penalties for possession and use of marijuana and paraphernalia for adults 21 or older. Portland Green Independents succeeded not only in getting the question of recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and older on the city's November ballot but prevailed by a comfortable margin when the issue was brought to a vote.
"When we initiated the referendum last year, we weren't involved with the Marijuana Policy Project at all," MacMillan recalled, noting that the group seemed to be concentrating its efforts in Augusta.
But the Portland Greens decided that marijuana legalization was a worthy cause, and "got the ball rolling," MacMillan said.
Currently, the Portland Greens are pursuing other issues — "Right now we're focused on making sure the June 10 referendum is successful with Congress Square Park and also supporting the six candidates who are running for state senate and house," MacMillan said.
But the Portland Green Party backs the concept of a legalization measure in neighboring South Portland.
"What the Portland Greens have said about South Portland specifically is if the language is the same and the sentiment is the same, we're supportive of what's happening in South Portland," MacMillan said.
"I hope that the South Portland Greens will play a good role in helping spread grassroots legalization," he said.
MacMillan said legalization will lead to regulation, which will make it harder for teens to get it.
Opponents argue that legalization sends a mixed message to young people, and a well funded movement has emerged to counter the pro-legalization movement.
Last week, Smart Approaches to Marijuana Chairman Patrick J. Kennedy was at Camp David briefing top Obama Administration officials on the marijuana situation in Colorado, according to a SAM press release.
SAM cited its "SAM 4/20 Report Card," the group said, "which includes data collected since Colorado's de facto legalization started in 2009 and full legalization was implemented in 2014. The report highlights how Colorado has not collected on its original projection of $134 million in revenue. In January, the state collected a mere $2 million in revenue from legal marijuana sales, and $3.2 million in February."
The report is available at http://learnaboutsam.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/SAM-420-Report-Card.pdf.
Project SAM describes itself as a nonpartisan alliance of lawmakers, scientists and other concerned citizens who want to move beyond simplistic discussions of "incarceration versus legalization" when discussing marijuana use.
MacMillan said the public remains engaged in the issue, noting that as he campaigns, "it is coming up, a lot of people were very excited to vote for legal last fall, and people are coming up to me and still talking about it."
But MacMillan agreed with Boyer that neither major party has embraced marijuana legalization.
"As a statewide party, I don't see the Democrats or the Republicans supporting legalization," he said.
"I think they're both very wary of it, I think there are elements in both parties that have read the writing on the wall, and especially in Portland and in Cumberland County, Democrats saw that their constituents were massively in favor of it. One of the powers of a third party is even if we don't win, we bring up good ideas," MacMillan said.
For Boyer, the Republican Party may provide fertile ground for persuasion.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., one of the speakers at this year's convention in Bangor, in the past has promoted hemp, applauding passage of a Kentucky bill that regulates industrial hemp. Boyer said Paul also has made reforming the mandatory minimum penalties for drug arrests one of his causes.
"I think like gay marriage, Republicans realize that most Americans aren't concerned with the social issues, at least as far as gay marriage and marijuana legalization are concerned," Boyer said. "Most of Americans are ready to move forward."
Paul hews to the libertarian end of the Republican Party (he's the son of the famously independent Ron Paul), Boyer said.
"While he's not there yet on legalization, he concedes that it doesn't make sense to arrest somebody and give somebody a record for youthful indiscretions," Boyer said.
Literature focused at conservatives will be available in Bangor, Boyer said.
He cites such conservative heavy hitters as Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize-winning economist; Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and former Republican presidential candidate; Glenn Beck, talk show host and Blaze TV founder; and William F. Buckley, Jr., founder of National Review — all of whom have expressed sympathy with the marijuana legalization position.
"This issue is not partisan at this point," Boyer argued.
"Here's a great thing that would create lots of jobs, a billion dollar industry," he said.
MacMillan agreed, noting, "When I'm talking to people I'm saying, 'If we want to close the budget gap without raising taxes, this is a great way to do it.'"
Besides MacMillan, a crop of pro-pot legalization Greens are running for Maine Legislature this year — Asher Platts is challenging Maine Senate President Justin Alfond in Portland; and Mark D. Diehl is running for Maine Senate against Rebecca Millettin District 7 (Cape Elizabeth, part of Scarborough, and South Portland).
"There's been an ongoing community discussion," MacMillan said.
"I think it can be a wedge issue with a lot of voters."
Last Updated on Thursday, 24 April 2014 02:23