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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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'My Father's Eyes' mixes history, personal discovery

Nobody could tell the story of Biagio John Bonina better than his daughter, Mary. After all, as the hard-working Italian man held a number of jobs to support his family — even while going increasingly blind — Mary was his eyes.9-16-14-TG-author-eyes

The author reads from her memoir at Sherman's Books and Stationery in Portland on Thursday night, and will talk about how her role as seer for her father led her to the literary life. That early task of telling her father about the world around him became central to her later life as a poet and writer. Her father worked as a toolmaker at the Charlestown Navy Yard, and then (after marrying) as a machinist at a pressed metal company in Worcester, then as cafeteria manager at Worcester Pressed Steel and the Higgins Armory Museum, then at Worcester Molded Plastics, and several other Boston companies.

Through all the jobs, especially once his retinitis pigmentosa made it so he could no longer drive, Mary described his world to him, informing him who was walking by so he could pass as a sighted man. The book opens in 1956 with the poignant scene of his last drive in his beloved Packard 180 Touring Sedan.9-16-14-TG-author-eyes-book

"One of the big things that made me want to write this book was I felt my dad was a maverick," Mary Bonina said. "As I got older and my world expanded and I met more people, whenever I told them about my dad, they thought he was remarkable. Eventually I realized that his story was my story. I was the person I am because of growing up with him. His life was my lens."

Bonina writes "My Father's Eyes" through two parallel lenses, or storylines, that chronicle, on the one hand, the week of his sudden death, the visit to the morgue, writing his obituary, the wake and funeral procession. On the other hand, she recounts his early days, the onset of visual troubles and marital fights.

"Using this structural device gives me the opportunity to give history on many levels — personal, local, national, and my parents contrasting class and ethnicity," she said of the two-part tale that tells of her father's Italian, working-class heritage and her mother's: Irish and upper middle class. "Also, some of the things I'm writing about are emotionally difficult, so I mix in the usual adolescence."

The use of a dual voice in the narrative offers a youthful, rhetorical and wondering perspective counter-balanced with the older voice — analytical yet emotional. The combination adds another layer of meaning. Bonina has two books of poetry, "Living Proof" and "Clear Eye Tea," and poetically traces her early days in Worcester, Mass., and summers at Old Orchard Beach, where her extended family still owns a house. She lived for 14 years in Tenant's Harbor, and still spends a lot of time in Maine, visiting friends in Lubec.

"Maine has always been a place where we could go as a family and relax, forget about our worries," she said.

Bonina began writing poetry at St. Peter's High School, and as an English major at Anna Marie College for Women (now co-ed), taking courses in newspaper and fiction. She earned an MFA in fiction writing and started going to poetry readings of contemporary poets, like Galway Kinnell, Robert Bly and Denise Levertov. Bonina was selected for an National Endowment for the Arts Grant (Master Poets/Apprentice Poets) and studied with Levertov and the British poet Ken Smith.

"I can see why poetry had such an appeal for me," she said. "One of things that came out of my relationship with my dad was the practice of description. Being with him, walking around the city, I was describing the world for him, but had to do so in a way that was fast. He was trying to pass as a sighted man, and believed that he deserved respect and not prejudice. Back then, blind people weren't present in the world."

The memoir is a nostalgic trip through the early second half of the 20th century. Bonina listens to Elvis records, watches the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, and sees John Glenn in space. She also mixes stories from her grandmother's memory of the horse-drawn bookcart with her own memories of drinking Cokes at Vernon Drug.

She tries to understand her father's eye troubles by looking through the pinhole in her curled forefinger and thumb, a shrinking okay sign.

The book also explores the author's relationship with her mother, often strained by the criticism of her dad. Her mother is now 94 years old.

"After my father died, she just went on," Bonina said. "She gradually mellowed out. In the book, I worked very hard to understand her anger, and to really figure out what was going on. I think she was worried. It was the time when women didn't necessarily go out and support the family. She had four children. She was the one who pushed him to get the operation and have rehab."

Her father's side of the family was in denial, she says, "afraid to admit it and didn't want to make it public."

Her father finally agreed to be part of research that was being done at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. Some of his family members took part; some didn't.

Bonina's sister, Peg, lost her sight and now has a seeing-eye dog. She worked at the Worcester Fire Department, for years as the secretary in the chief's office and now "she lives on her own, swims at the Y, and spends a lot of time with my mother," Bonina said.

This powerful memoir reveals how much can still be seen, even when losing your sight.


Event Details:
Mary Bonina reads from her memoir "My Father's Eyes"
Thursday, Sept 18 at 7 p.m.
Sherman's Books and Stationery
49 Exchange St., Portland

Last Updated on Monday, 15 September 2014 23:36

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Cutler vows to continue King's work on economic development

In the three-way race for governor in Maine, Independent Eliot Cutler has staked out a unique position: He could represent the continuation of Angus King's eight-year stint as governor from over a decade ago, when economic development was a top issue.9-16-14-cutler-king-1

On Friday, Cutler conducted a tour of Fluid Imaging Technologies in Scarborough with King, who today is the first Independent U.S. Senator from Maine. King has endorsed Cutler in his bid to defeat incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage and fend off Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud.
Together, Cutler and King visited the technology-based imaging business, touring the site and commenting on economic challenges and trends in Maine. They were shown around and introduced to employees by Kent Peterson, president and CEO.9-16-14-cutler-king-3
The event followed an Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine, or E2Tech, campaign forum about energy and the environment earlier Friday morning.
At the conclusion of the tour of the Fluid Imaging Technologies facility - which at 17,000 square feet marks a dramatic expansion from the company's former headquarters in Yarmouth and its humble origins in a laboratory at Boothbay – Cutler and King congratulated Peterson on the company's success. Then, Cutler offered a campaign vision.
"I intend to pick up where you left off," Cutler said to King, "and I would return Maine - both in terms of economic activity and in terms of birthing great companies like this - to the day that you left office in early 2003 when Maine was neck and neck with Massachusetts and ahead of the rest of New England."
King said, "The reason that I'm here with Eliot is that if we're going to develop a 21st century economy we need a 21st century governor."
Monday, Sept. 15 was Fluid Imaging Technologies'15th anniversary, and in advance of that celebration, Peterson described ongoing improvements in microscopic-imaging technology. He displayed a "next generation" camera that could search for cancer cells, among its applications.
"This is the kind of company that we want, need and must have in Maine," King said. "It's got all the right pieces, two thirds of the products are exported outside the country, virtually all the products are exported outside of Maine, it's literally bringing jobs and money into Maine," King said.
King said, "This company is in some ways symbolic of the future of the Maine economy."
During the tour, King described his recent tour of IDEXX Laboratories' new Synergy Center at the company's World Campus in Westbrook.
"A lot of employees are from Maine, and a lot of them are from other parts of the country, but one of the challenges is trying to get somebody to come here for one of these engineering jobs, and they say, 'Well, what if it doesn't work? I don't have any place else to go.' But as you grow," King told Peterson, "and other people grow, that makes a richer pool."
STEM, or the combined disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math, reaches back to the eighth grade but affects businesses like Fluid Imaging Technologies, King and Cutler agreed.
Cutler said, "It goes back to not enough Maine kids in college and university programs in software engineering as well as the other computer sciences."
King said, "I think it's going to be news to a lot of people in Maine that there are empty jobs."
Cutler described 100 jobs that are open at a call center in Bangor; "they are entry level jobs, it's a call center, but they can't find people who have the work skills," he said.
At Fluid Imaging Technologies, a position remained open for over a year, Peterson said.
"I don't understand how some of the bigger companies can grow," he said.
Peterson said Fluid Imaging Technologies relies on STEM-educated candidates, and the company is often forced to search out of state.
Cutler said Fluid Imaging offers a blueprint for creating new jobs in Maine: "Take world-class research done here in Maine, create a company to commercialize it, support it with STEM education so they have access to trained workers, and then help them grow and export their products and services around the world," he said, in a written statement.
After the tour, Cutler noted the assistance of the Maine Technology Institute in Brunswick and the nurturing of Bigelow Laboratory for Oceanographic Sciences in Boothbay (the Maine Technology Institute awarded Fluid Imaging a $500,000 research and development loan to help accelerate research and development into next-generation technologies; and the company's trademark device, the FlowCAM, was developed originally for studying phytoplankton at Bigelow Laboratory, the company's website reports).
Acknowledging that many view Cutler as a spoiler who could lead to the re-election of LePage, King said he has a simpler analysis of the November election: "Who do you think would be the best governor?"
King argued that Cutler has the real-world business experience and knowledge of government. King described their respective careers working for U.S. Senators.
Cutler, 67, of Cape Elizabeth, worked for U.S. Sen. Edmund S. Muskie, D-Maine, as a special assistant, legislative assistant and counsel to the Subcommittee on Environmental Pollution. King served as chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Alcoholism and Narcotics in the office of U.S. Sen. William Hathaway, D-Maine.


About that E2Tech forum ...

The Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine, or E2Tech, corralled two of the three gubernatorial candidates for a campaign forum about energy and the environment, but not until a flap over the format prompted Governor Paul LePage to leave.
In a statement after the forum, E2Tech wrote, "Governor Paul LePage, Congressman Mike Michaud, and candidate Eliot Cutler were invited to provide remarks on their energy, environmental, and economic development policies and plans, to our diverse network of private, public and non-profit sector members. We planned for each candidate to have thirty minutes, with remarks and questions from the audience. Candidates were informed they could break up their half-hour to focus more time on their remarks or more time for audience Q&A, depending on their preference. All candidates were invited and encouraged to stay, listen to the other candidates' remarks, and network and talk with business representatives and other attendees, some of whom had tables with energy product and service information. All were allowed to bring campaign materials."
In addition to the more than 275 business, non-profit, government and educational institution attendees, E2Tech hosted 85 students from the Baxter Academy for Technology and Science.
According to news reports, LePage left because of concerns with the format.

E2Tech wrote, "We thank Rep. Michaud and Eliot Cutler for participating in the forum and also thank Governor's Energy Office Director Patrick Woodcock and Efficiency Maine Executive Director Michael Stoddard for later discussing options available to help ease Mainers' heating burden and make the right choice 'in the heat of the moment.' The diversity of energy and heating options, their costs and benefits, and potential strategies to provide cost-effective energy resources to Maine's homes and businesses, were the messages we wanted to convey. There was no intent to place politics before policy today, nor has there ever been by E2Tech. Unfortunately, the Governor's decision at the last minute not to participate in the forum because of the presence of the two other candidates in the room has distracted many from focusing on the important policy issues discussed this morning by the speakers and audience."

E2Tech described itself as "a non-profit membership organization that provides a neutral, impartial forum available for diverse interests to discuss a wide range of energy, economic and environmental topics."

Last Updated on Monday, 15 September 2014 23:30

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Wild Oats expands to Brunswick Landing

Brunswick Landing, Brunswick's sprawling business park emerging from the former Naval Air Station, has gained a free-standing retail deli and café that should be familiar to locals.
Wild Oats, which opened Sept. 2 at Brunswick Landing, operates weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will begin serving on Saturdays starting Oct. 4.9-16-14-wild-oats-1
A new smoothie station and expanded coffee and espresso bar accompany the traditional deli, bakery and café familiar to patrons of the Wild Oats located at the Tontine Mall at 149 Maine St. The new Wild Oats – like its counterpart in downtown Brunswick – is practically a stone's throw from a college campus.
The Maine Street location caters to students at Bowdoin College. The new location in Brunswick Landing serves a healthy contingent of students from the Southern Maine Community College Midcoast Campus.
"Our lunches have been really, really busy, our mornings have been slower but they're picking up," owner Becky Shepherd said last week. "Every day that we've been here has been getting better and better."9-16-14-wild-oats-2
Being in the community is important to the business, and this space "gave us an opportunity to do more in the same community," Shepherd said. "It's just a wonderful space, there's beautiful light, it's got parking, and it's so much more open here, just like the campus is open."
Helpful signs point the way to the business, as a person can get turned around in the 3,200-acre Brunswick Landing; a tip is to navigate to the SMCC campus, and Wild Oats is nearby on Burbank Avenue.
Expanding on its weekday hours, on Oct. 4, the new Wild Oats will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, according to its Facebook page. Current hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The downtown location remains open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, its Facebook page indicates.
Wild Oats provides an option with its food made by hand and from scratch, Shepherd noted.
"There's mostly fast food at Cook's Corner so it offers people an alternative," she said.
Meanwhile, the park itself is worth a visit, with massive aircraft displays and varied businesses. Brunswick Landing features nearly 2 million square feet of commercial and industrial space and an aviation complex, Brunswick Executive Airport.
When the naval station closed in 2011, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority developed an action plan for redevelopment of the property into a business park. A recent $2 million federal award helped support establishment of an advanced manufacturing accelerator. This spring, U.S. Bank announced more than $2.6 million in New Markets Tax Credit equity to fund the renovation of a 9,000-square-foot facility on the Brunswick campus into space for Providence Services Corporation, the largest provider of child behavioral health and autism services in the area; and support for the expansion of the Midcoast Veterans Resource Center. Naval Air Station Brunswick was originally constructed in 1943.

Last Updated on Monday, 15 September 2014 23:37

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