A.J. Higgins

Statewide News Reporter

A.J. came to Maine Public Radio in August 2007 after a stint as a staff writer for Blethen Maine Newspapers. His news coverage for the Kennebec Journal in Augusta also appeared in the Waterville Morning Sentinel, the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram. Prior to joining the Kennebec Journal, A.J. served for 13 years as political editor and State House bureau chief for the Bangor Daily News.

He began working for the BDN in 1972 while still a senior at Bangor High School, when his first job was casting the lead plates for the printing presses in the paper’s stereotype department. In the ensuing 34 years, A.J. moved up to the editorial department, where he quickly immersed himself in nearly every facet of news reporting, editing and photography.

In addition to his extensive coverage in the greater Bangor area, he also worked in the paper’s Presque Isle bureau and was named bureau chief of the paper’s Hancock County operations in Ellsworth in 1988. He was assigned to the State House in 1993.

While A.J.’s reporting on Maine Public Radio has largely centered around coverage of events in Augusta, he has turned his reporting chops to issues and topics taking place across the entire state.

A.J. resides in Manchester with his wife, Diane.

Ways to Connect

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

Ceremonies were held around the state today to mark the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Among those gathered at Fort Allen Park in Portland was Marine veteran John McLeod, who was 18 years old and serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps in Bar Harbor at the time of the attack in 1941.

He says he tries to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day every year.

"I doubt if I'll be around next year — I'm 93 right now. I've been trying to come here every year if I could, and of course every year it gets colder," he jokes.

About 600 foreclosure notices from the city of Bangor went into the mail Tuesday to alert residents with outstanding balances that time is running out to make good on their debts to the city.

The outstanding balances on past due property tax payments and sewer or stormwater fees stretch back two years, when the city initiated property tax lien attachments. Bangor Mayor Joe Baldacci says the city just wants its residents to pay their fair share.

Maine tourism officials say the state is poised to match and likely surpass last year’s record-breaking tourist season, which produced more than $5.5 billion in revenue. This, following a summer that was short on rain and long on savings at the gas pump.

As the LePage administration prepares a new two-year budget, tourism groups are releasing a series of new ads detailing the industry’s broad effect on Maine’s economy.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

A recreational rail-trail project that has been nearly 30 years in the making was completed Friday with the addition of two final miles connecting Ellsworth to Calais 87 miles away.

The multi-use Downeast Sunrise Trail is the longest trail of its type and part of the East Coast Greenway, which extends all the way to Key West, Florida.

The final phase of the $1.3 million project is expected to boost the Ellsworth-area economy.

 AUGUSTA, Maine_ Early College will be a major topic of discussion Monday when the Commission to Reform Public Education Funding and Improve Student Performance holds its regular meeting at the Cross Office Building in Augusta. 

A little more than a year ago, Maine’s wildlife biologists were talking about possible statewide conservation measures that might be necessary to protect the whitetail deer herd. All of that talk struck residents of Eastport as a little odd, because on their three-square-mile island, deer were regularly wandering into parking lots and backyards and across the road.

Now state officials have authorized a special deer hunt aimed at bringing the island’s deer population down to a more manageable level.

John Cook / Flickr/Creative Commons

This year more than 100 cruise ships have docked in Bar Harbor, where disembarking passengers explore shop-lined streets and maybe take in a lobster dinner at a local restaurant.

The Penobscot County Metro Treatment Center is moving forward with its lawsuit against the city of Bangor after a federal judge ruled Tuesday that a city ordinance regulating methadone clinics is discriminatory.

The court did not grant the center’s request for injunctive relief, meaning, pending a favorable court ruling, the clinic’s client base will remain at no more than 300 patients.

UMaine Orono President Susan Hunter and other UMaine System presidents are assuring students that acts of hate against students, based on political differences, ethnicity or religious background will not be tolerated and that campus police are prepared to respond.

A Spruce Head fisherman is facing penalties of up to $500 and the suspension of his harvester’s license after state marine patrol officers charged him with fishing beyond his trap limit. Jeff Nichols, a spokesman for the state Department of Marine Resources, says fifty-two year old Brian Tarbox was only licensed to fish with 800 traps when he was stopped by marine patrol officers.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

Lobster fishermen in Maine have long had to cope with a volatile consumer market that could send prices soaring in the early spring only to bottom out in the fall. But an aggressive international marketing campaign and new demand across the U.S. are changing that cycle and providing more financial stability than fishermen have seen in years.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidate Emily Cain closed up her Bangor headquarters today, formally ending her second bid in four years against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin. In hindsight, Cain believes she ran the best campaign she could, and some observers say Cain was hurt by other issues on the ballot.

Brian Bechard / Maine Public

Riding a Republican wave, incumbent 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin has won another two-year term.

Poliquin defeated Democratic challenger Emily Cain in a campaign that broke all state spending records for a U.S. House race. More than $15 million was spent by the candidates and allied outside interests in a nonstop TV ad campaign.

Shortly after midnight, Poliquin stepped to the microphone at Dysart’s Restaurant in Bangor and delivered the message his supporters had been waiting to hear.

For the last 12 years, the seven campuses of the University of Maine System have struggled with consecutive year-to-year declines in fall enrollment numbers. But UMS officials are now reporting a 1.6 percent increase over last fall’s head count, with 29,465 students enrolled.

Dan Demeritt, a spokesman for UMS, says this year’s turnaround in systemwide enrollment was no accident.

“It reflects the work that the Maine universities are doing to maintain affordability and extend access,” he says.

BANGOR, Maine - A New York personal finance technology company is giving Maine high marks for its efforts to encourage veterans to re-enter the work force and take advantage of veterans programs.

Asees Singh, of SmartAssets, says that Maine ranks sixth in the country when it comes to several key programs.

"When veterans come back from serving, the process to adjusting to civilian life can be really difficult for them," Singh says. "A survey from Pew Research Center found that 27 percent of veterans had a difficult time re-acclimating to civilian life."