Irwin Gratz

Morning Edition Producer

Irwin was born and reared in New York City and, while he never hiked miles to school, he did walk up six flights of stairs every day to the apartment his family lived in until he was nearly 19. Irwin remains a lover of subway rides, egg creams, and the New York Mets.

He moved to Maine in 1978 and worked a dozen years in commercial radio in Sanford, then Portland, before beginning to freelance for Maine Public Radio in 1990. He has been the local anchor of Morning Edition since September 1992.

Irwin served as chairman of the Maine Association of Broadcasters in 2015. From September 2004 to October 2005, Irwin served as national president of the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization. He holds a master’s in journalism from New York University. Irwin won a Yankee Quill Award in 2011 from the New England Newspaper and Press Association for his “broad influence for good, both inside and outside the newsroom.”

Irwin also has an interest in astronomy, which he indulges to this day as an occasional show presenter at the Southworth Planetarium in Portland. And he swims, a lot. Irwin has completed seven Peaks Island-to-Portland swims. Irwin is married and has a teenage son.

Ways to Connect

A new system for filing unemployment claims remains broken, according to some state lawmakers.

State Rep. Ryan Fecteau says he and other elected officials continue to receive complaints about problems with signing into accounts online, and reaching system administrators by phone.

Fecteau says those problems are directly impacting people's financial stability. "The issue now is that folks who should have been receiving a benefit quite a while ago, they aren't receiving a benefit, and therefore haven't been paying bills, because they just can't."

Maine's economic growth accelerated in the third quarter of last year. The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis says the state's gross domestic product - or GDP - was growing at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the July-to-September quarter.

A federal appeals court is now deciding if a Maine student with autism has the right to record his entire school day. 

Ben Pollock's parents say their son's inability to tell them what goes on during his day at school made them want to record it for themselves.  SAD 60 argues that would violate other students' privacy and is unnecessary.

The case has gone on for years and many of the arguments before the appeals court were about earlier judgments.  Those judgments, based on a federal law known as IDEA, found Ben didn't need to record his day to progress at school.

Portland city councilors will be asked Monday to get the ball rolling on a city-wide property revaluation.  

State law requires communities to make sure assessments stay close to actual market prices for property.  City Assessor Christopher Huff says Portland's assessments are drifting off target.

"We're pretty certain that we'll be under - at or under - that 70 percent ratio by about fiscal year '21, possibly even fiscal year '20 and that's why we're just trying to be proactive," Huff says. "This is something we're going to have to do." image

Maine is bracing for an ocean storm that will track close enough to the state Thursday to produce heavy snow.

“We are expecting about 8-12 inches throughout most of southern and western Maine and, once you get toward Penobscot Bay and points to the east, 12-18 inches plus are possible, certainly from Penobscot up through Washington County,” says Tom Hawley with the National Weather Service in Gray.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

As the year ends, we look back on the lives of some memorable Mainers. They defended people in court and on the battlefield, created great art and moving music, shaped public policy and gave us an official state soft drink.

Mainers' personal income rose half-a-percent in the 3rd quarter of this year. 

Nearly all of the gain came in the form of higher earnings, according to the Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. 

As usual, the health care industry generated the biggest share of the gain in personal income.  Construction had a good quarter as well.  But income from farming and fishing fell slightly.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public/file

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills is joining 16 other attorneys general in asking the Federal Communications Commission to put off voting to scrap net neutrality rules. 

Those are the rules, in place since 2015, that prevent Internet service providers from, for instance, demanding higher payments to move data more quickly over their networks.

Mills says she and others want the vote delayed because millions of fake comments were submitted to the commission under identities that were stolen.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

Maine Gov. Paul LePage has a new reason to consider running for the Senate next year:  The Washington Post is reporting that President Trump has said he wants LePage to challenge Independent Sen. Angus King.  

A business-led group is out with its fifth annual Educate Maine report, and Executive Director Ed Cervone says, overall, it indicates that Maine students are generally well-served by the state's schools.   

"In here what we're seeing in terms of academic success, we see kind of a plateauing recently," Cervone says. "In terms of post-secondary - meaning college-going persistence and completion - we see a lot of the same numbers we've seen over time."

Unemployment in all three of Maine's metropolitan areas fell one-tenth of a percentage point in October.  

That means unemployment in Bangor is running at 3.1 percent of the workforce, Lewiston-Auburn at 2.9 percent and in Portland-South Portland, just 2.5 percent of people looking for work couldn't find jobs last month.  

The percentages translate to 2,178 people needing jobs in Bangor, 1,596 in Lewiston-Auburn and 5,054 in the Portland-South Portland Metro areas.

The figures were released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The federal government reported Tuesday that Maine’s economy grew at a 2 percent annual rate in the second quarter of this year.  

The Gross Domestic Product - or GDP - as it’s known, is the measure of all goods and services produced in the state.  Maine’s 2 percent figure was down from the 2.4 percent growth logged in the first quarter of this year.  In dollars, Maine’s GDP in the second quarter was $61.006 billion.

Maine Department of Transportation

The Maine Department of Transportation is warning motorists traveling on I-95 in Augusta of temporary on- and off-ramps that opened Sunday.

Officials say the new configuration will affect all northbound traffic on Whitten Road, where motorists will encounter a new stop sign and a temporary southbound on-ramp.

The ramps are part of an effort to replace a damaged overpass at the 109A interchange.  The bridge is expected to open later this winter.

Next week, Maine voters will be asked to weigh in another $105 million in borrowing to pay for needed transportation infrastructure.  This week, a lobbying group called TRIP released its latest assessment of one segment of that transportation infrastructure:  bridges.

The TRIP assessment: 14 percent of Maine bridges remain structurally deficient.  The group says that's the ninth highest percentage in the nation.

But state transportation official Andrew Bickmore says the 14 percent figure may not be as bad as it sounds

The latest government statistics on unemployment in Maine's urban areas show three very tight labor markets.

In Bangor, joblessness fell from 3.3 percent in August to 3.1 percent in September.

Lewiston-Auburn went from 3.1 percent to 2.9 percent.

Portland-South Portland's jobless rate was steady, but at a very low, 2.5 percent.

The unemployment rate in September for Maine as a whole was 3.7 percent, lower than the national rate of 4.2 percent.