Good morning from Augusta. The Legislature’s marijuana advisory commission is meeting at 10 a.m. today. Follow along here.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Currently there does not seem to be any evidence that suggests transmission from deer to humans, and the risk to humans appears very low,” said Mark Latti, communications director for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, on the potential for deer, which can contract COVID-19, to spread it back to humans.
What we’re watching today
An emerging progressive wing is on the cusp of a Portland council majority at a crucial time in city politics. The recount in the tied race between planning board chair Brandon Mazer and former school board chair Roberto Rodriguez for an at-large council seat started on Tuesday morning and could end as soon as today. It is not likely to remain tied. If it does, Mazer would win after prevailing in a random drawing last week.
The process has already been fraught. Portland was criticized by voting-rights advocates for not publicizing the tied vote in the ranked-choice race when it was first calculated on election night. The city also had to revise initial tallies after leaving out absentee votes in elections in island communities. (The city says all votes were counted in the at-large race.)
The timing of this race gives it high stakes. Just about everyone who wins office in Portland would be considered progressive in the rest of Maine. But recent campaigns in the city have been marked by a battle between a more progressive wing and a more restrained business class, embodied early on by the tension between former Mayor Ethan Strimling, who lost in 2019 to Mayor Kate Snyder, and recently departed City Manager Jon Jennings.
The council has been controlled by the establishment in recent years, but that changed in 2020, when two candidates backed by Progressive Portland and supported by Strimling won seats in the same year that voters passed four of five referendum questions backed by progressives, including a $15 minimum wage. They kept momentum going into 2021, sweeping a crucial charter commission race with progressives aiming to establish a strong mayor system.
While any charter changes are expected to go to voters next summer, the council will decide how they will be implemented. Progressives already have a tenuous five-person majority on the nine-member council after Victoria Pelletier and Anna Trevorrow won seats in last Tuesday’s election. A win for Rodriguez, who was endorsed by Progressive Portland, would cement it. That’s why observers from across the state will be watching the result this week.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the connection between Progressive Portland and Ethan Strimling.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Rural Maine’s lower vaccination rates are lengthening a COVID-19 plateau,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Those pockets will continue to sustain the virus, public health experts said. The recent trouble suggests that Maine’s early ability to weather surges better than other states may be a drawback in beating back this surge because relatively few people compared with other states have contracted COVID-19 at any time during the pandemic.”
More people are getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The seven-day average of new shots have doubled in the last month and reached their highest point since June. Boosters and second doses have also ticked up. The increase could be due to the high case numbers and more employers requiring employees to get vaccinated as a work condition. With nearly 88 percent of Mainers over 12 having at least one shot, the state could get close to a 100 percent vaccination rate in three months.
— “Canadian CEO vows Maine mining project will continue,” Kate Cough, The Maine Monitor: “If developed, the project is expected to produce roughly 4.5 million tons of ore and generate $1.36 billion in cash flow over the roughly nine years it would be in commercial production, according to documents on file with the state. Wolfden expects to spend close to $600 million during 14 years of planning and operations.”
— “Here’s how the infrastructure bill will boost funding for Maine’s transportation initiatives,” Steve Mistler, Maine Public: “The Maine Department of Transportation is anticipating a significant funding boost from the massive infrastructure bill that passed the U.S. House late last week and now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature. Transportation commissioner Bruce Van Note says that in addition to bolstering the state’s highway and bridge program by $1.3 billion, it also directs funding toward a range of other transportation initiatives while giving the state a chance to compete for even more federal dollars.”
Pingree among group headed to Glasgow
The congresswoman from Maine’s 1st District joined a delegation attending the second week of the United Nations’ global climate change summit. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, is one of roughly 20 House members headed to the conference this week. In a release before the group’s departure, she pointed to warming in the Gulf of Maine and coastal flooding as among the harms of climate change already affecting Maine.
“This summit is our chance to hear from other nations about how we can address climate change on a global level,” Pingree said.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper and edited by Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.
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