Portland tried to ban panhandling in medians. Now, there’s a play about it.

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight: A preview of this weekend’s play about the panhandling ban; a southern Maine lawmaker wants the Maine State  Police to explain whether it’s snooping on the public; and an update from the Adulting School. Also, it snowed today.

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What we’re talking about

Al D'Andrea and Margit Ahlin of Snowlion Repertory Company are premiering a new play this weekend based on the actual words spoken by the players in Portland's panhandling ordinance saga. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Al D’Andrea and Margit Ahlin of Snowlion Repertory Company are premiering a new play this weekend based on the actual words spoken by the players in Portland’s panhandling ordinance saga. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

This new play tackles Portland’s failed panhandling ordinance — Remember back in 2013 when the City Council voted to ban people from standing in medians — which a judge found was constitutional? And remember how the city appealed that decision, but lost?

Well, a local theater company has developed a new play based on that whole story, which you can see this weekend. Troy Bennett writes: 

“To ban people from standing on the medians, spending time on the medians, took the lid off all of these feelings, emotions, attitudes, principles people were kind of holding to themselves about all of these larger issues,” said Al D’Andrea, director of a new play dealing with the median strip saga.

“Anything Helps God Bless,” by the Snowlion Repertory Company, premieres in two workshop performances this weekend. It’s is based on the actual words of those directly involved with the panhandling debate in town.

“The entire play is constructed 100 percent from the words of the people involved,” said Margit Ahlin, producing director, “including people you know: the mayor, the city councilors, lawyers, the police — characters like that — as well as the [panhandling] signers themselves.”

D’Andrea, writer M.K. Wolf and the cast used official transcripts and fresh interviews with players in the controversy to piece the show together.

Watch Troy’s video here for a look at one of their rehearsals.

A southern Maine lawmaker wants the state police to explain whether they’re snooping on the public — Jake Bleiberg reports:

The Maine State Police should explain whether it is using social media to monitor what the public says online, according to a state representative who is calling for a public hearing.

A member of the state legislative committee that oversees law enforcement said he could not recall the state police briefing him on its use of Geofeedia, a controversial computer program that monitors public activity on social media. Two law enforcement officers told BDN Portland last week that the Maine State Police has purchased a license for the service.

“I would be interested in having a public hearing on how [Geofeedia] is being used on the state level and its overall effectiveness,” said State Senator-elect Justin Chenette, D-Saco, who sat on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee as a state representative for the last two years.

The mayor literally extended olive branches to city councilors today — Randy Billings of the Press Herald reports from the inauguration of two new City Council members, where Mayor Ethan Strimling left olive branches at the seats of each councilor.

It was a gesture accompanied by a speech that confronted the tension between the mayor and Council (“Despite what the papers may say, I am very pleased to be working with you again,” he said.)

Randy writes:

Belinda Ray, who has clashed publicly with Strimling, said the olive branch and the remarks were a “nice gesture.” She and other councilors noted that her olive branch seemed to be the largest.

Adulting School appears on a Fox segment called ‘The Wussification of America’ — Kathleen Pierce follows up on the huge international media attention that the Portland “school” is getting:

They’ve been mentioned in The Guardian, New York Magazine, went on the radio in Amsterdam, have been interviewed by a Chilean newspaper and the BBC.

And last week, The Adulting School’s co-founder Rachel Weinstein appeared on a Fox and Friends segment called “The Wussification of America,” to explain why the therapist launched a school to teach Millennials life skills many have missed. …

Awareness in their concept gained steam in the last two weeks as Weinstein and partner Katie Brunelle (who appeared Monday on Fox), rapidly field invites from hosts and journalists. Even if some of the coverage has been “shut up you’re grownups. Deal with it. You should know how to do it, stop whining,” said Weinstein, “there are a lot of complicated and complex reasons why adulting is a word now.”

Sacred Stories at South Portland City Hall — Color of Community, a group made up mostly of Southern Maine Community College students, presents firsthand stories from asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants at South Portland City Hall from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday.

ICYMI: Styxx’s owner plans to close the gay nightclub on New Year’s Day — As the day nears, the club’s closure is in the news again. Re-read Jake’s story from October:

The closure of Styxx, the cavernous Spring Street nightclub, is tied in part to the remarkable rise in Americans’ acceptance of gay men and lesbians in recent decades, according to owner Josh Moody, who said that business has slowed as costs have risen. …

Bars and clubs have long served as centers for people whose sexuality was rejected by society at large and contending with anti-gay violence and police raids was a regular part of owning or patronizing a gay bar just a few decades ago.

But public opinion has dramatically shifted in the last 20 years. In 1996, only 27 percent of Americans said same-sex marriages should be legal, according to Gallup. A year after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed same-sex couples’ right to marry, that number is 68 percent.

The Big Idea

Trump’s pick for AG is incredibly unchill — Politico’s James Higdon writes that the noted anti-marijuana Sen. Jeff Sessions could basically undo the legalization of weed at the state level. Maine voted to legalize recreational use, though a recount for that bill began today.

Sessions has not shared his plans on marijuana enforcement, but if he chooses, he will be able to act decisively and quickly—more so perhaps than with any other of his top agenda items such as re-doubling efforts to combat illegal immigration and relaxing oversight of local police forces and federal civil rights laws. With little more than the stroke of his own pen, the new attorney general will be able to arrest growers, retailers and users, defying the will of more than half the nation’s voters, including those in his own state where legislators approved the use of CBD. Aggressive enforcement could cause chaos in a $6.7 billion industry that is already attracting major investment from Wall Street hedge funds and expected to hit $21.8 billion by 2020.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.