Council says there’s a plan to roll out some body cameras early

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Let’s get to it.

What we’re talking about

City Council says $25,000 available for body camera pilot — On Wednesday, City Council members presented the vague sketch of a plan they said has been in the works for more than six months to equip a small number of Portland police officers with body cameras before the city fully adopts the technology in the 2019 fiscal year.

Following days of heated public debate over body cameras, six council members said that the city has about $26,000 left over from a federal grant that it will be using to purchase eight body cameras in the coming months.

The announcement follows several activist groups pressing the city to move faster in adopting the technology already used by several other Maine police forces. Councilor Belinda Ray emphasized that the pilot program presented Wednesday “has been in the works for some time and is not a surprise to any of us.”

Except, apparently, for the mayor.

Mayor Ethan Strimling — who last week called for a pilot body camera program,  two days before a police officer fatally shot a man in Union Station Plaza — said he only learned at the press conference that there were existing federal funds to buy a handful of body cameras.

“I have not seen a plan,” he said. “But I look forward to seeing it.”

The councilors couldn’t provide many details on the pilot plan, and Police Chief Michael Sauschuck did not mention it specifically when asked about a body camera pilot program the day before. The councilors emphasized that there is harmony on the issue between the council, the chief and City Manager Jon Jennings. — Jake Bleiberg

Happy 210th birthday to Portland’s most famous dead, bearded poet — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a professor of modern languages at Bowdoin and Harvard. He could speak eight different languages. On Monday, the Maine Historical Society is celebrating his birthday by featuring the work of six international students from Portland High School, who will read one of Longfellow’s poems they have translated into the language of their choice. Former state Representative and historian Herb Adams will deliver his spirited annual reading of “Paul Revere’s Ride” and there will be enough cake for everyone at this free event. — Troy R. Bennett

Popular midcoast chef lands in Portland — Kathleen Pierce writes:

After 25 years in business, Kerry Altiero of Cafe Miranda in Rockland is now expanding into the Portland market.

A partnership with Cellardoor at The Point means the wired and witty Altiero will be catering events in Bettina Doulton’s posh new event space on Thompson’s Point. Food lovers no longer have to hightail it up Route 1 for a taste of his pan-ethnic cuisine.

LePage asks Trump to ax North Woods national monument — Gov. Paul LePage has asked President Donald Trump to rescind his predecessor’s order that created the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, the BDN’s Nick Sambides Jr. reports. In a letter dated Feb. 14, the governor asks the Trump administration to return the land to private ownership “before economic damage occurs and traditional recreational pursuits are diminished.” LePage called President Barack Obama’s order creating the monument a “grave injustice,” while chief its proponent, Lucas St. Clair, said that reversing course would mean losing the $40 million endowment his family promised in support of the monument. (Read the LePage’s full letter to Trump here.)

I-295 slows down — In response to an alarming increase in crashes along a 24-mile stretch of Interstate 295, the Maine Department of Transportation is tapping the brakes, the BDN’s Beth Brogan reports. Starting March 27 the highway speed limit between Topsham and Falmouth will drop from 70 miles per hour down to 65. The change comes in response to the rising rate of accidents on the road, which shot up 29 percent since 2014 even as traffic volumes rose only 6.4 percent.

Tweet of the day

From Joe Hegarty:

Screenshot 2017-02-22 16.37.57

The Big Idea

I want to believe. — Scientists have discovered the first realistic possibility of alien life outside our solar system — actually they’ve discovered seven. Orbiting around a nearby star named  Trappist-1 are seven earth-sized planets that could be the right temperature for liquid water, a key ingredient for life — at least as we know it. “I think that we have made a crucial step toward finding if there is life out there,” one astronomer told The New York Times.

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

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