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

Fatuma Hussein of United Somali Women of Maine last night urged Lewiston's city council to keep providing general assistance to undocumented immigrants. Hussein testified the aid provides a crucial, temporary "lifeline" for asylum seekers who've recently come to the region from Angola, Burundi, Rwanda and Congo.

"Many of them have experienced genocide," Hussein said. "Many of them are women or children. Women who have been exposed to violence, including sexual violence."

The Jewish Community Alliance organized an interfaith vigil last night in Portland in response to the outbreak of attacks on Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes followed the deaths of four teenagers. Louise Abramson of Falmouth says it makes her think about her 16-year-old son.

"I'm very troubled by what's happening." Abronson said. She expressed he hope that "we can all work toward peace and some understanding." She said the deaths of three kidnapped Israeli teens and the revenge killing of a Palestinian teen were "so unnecessary."

This morning, a look at what innovation looked like in the 19th century. Our guide is Howard Segal, a history professor at the University of Maine. He wrote an essay for the current Maine Policy Review in which he pointed out Maine's economy that century was much more complex than people give it credit for.

Next week, a look ahead at the skills Maine needs to innovate in the 21st century.

Maine's Tourism Economy

Jul 13, 2014
Maine Office of Tourism

Anyone who knows Maine knows tourism is a huge part of state's economy.  Join host Irwin Gratz for a discussion about how the tourist industry is faring so far this summer season.

Guests: Vaughn Stinson, CEO of the Maine Tourism Association

Amanda Rector, state economist at the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management

Matthew Arrants, director with Pinnacle Advisory Group, a national hotel consulting firm that works with hotel owners, developers, and investors around the country

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told a Senate hearing yesterday that a presidential directive in 2012, aimed at protecting immigrant children, has contributed to a spike in unaccompanied minors coming across the U.S. southern border. Collins asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson what can reverse that:

"What, specifically is the administration doing to propose changes in the laws or regulations right now so that these children can be safely, and immediately put on planes and returned to their parents?" Collins said.

Courtesy: Maine Historical Society/MaineToday Media

The YMCA of Southern Maine will stage its 32nd annual Peaks Island-to-Portland swim Saturday morning. But the swim has a much longer history.

A setback for the state's passenger rail authority in its bid to build a layover facility for Downeaster trains in Brunswick. A Superior Court judge has voided a stormwater runoff permit issued by the Department of Environmental Protection, citing a failure to notify nearby homeowners of the proceeding.

Passenger Rail Authority chief Patricia Quinn says "We followed the DEP's guidance on this" and says the rail authority will "wait to see what we do next."

South Portland councilors postponed their meeting and vote on an ordinance to block tar sands crude from being shipped through the city. The council acted after more people showed up for last night's meeting than could be safely accommodated at South Portland's council chambers.

The new ordinance is supposed to be more narrowly tailored than zoning changes rejected by voters last November. But Burt Russell, vice president of Sprague Energy, says that's not what he sees in the new ordinance.

Anti-abortion opponents say they won't drop their lawsuit against Portland, even though Portland last night dropped its ordinance placing a "buffer zone" around the entrance to a Planned Parenthood clinic. Attorney Erin Kuenzig of the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan represents Maine activists who are challenging Portland's buffer zone.

"I think it would signal to the City Council in considering any future legislation that might attempt to restrict First Amendment rights without considering any other alternatives that are available to it," Kuenzig says.

The latest Maine Policy Review is devoted to innovation in the Maine Economy. MPBN's Irwin Gratz talked with Linda Silka, who directs the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, which publishes the review, about what it will take to promote innovation in the Maine economy. She says innovation is more likely when you bring together people with different skills who know something about each other's work:

To read the review, visit

The Portland City Council Monday will consider repealing the city ordinance barring protests within 39 feet of the Planned Parenthood clinic downtown. 

Sunday marks the first anniversary of the oil train disaster in Lac Megantic, Quebec, not far from the Maine border.  

A runaway train of the former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway de-railed in the center of town. Tanker cars full of oil exploded into flame, devastating part of Lac Megntic's downtown and killing 47 people.

This weekend, a candlelight walk will be staged through Lac Megantic.  It's scheduled to last 47 minutes - one minute for every person who died in the tragedy.

Democratic candidate Shenna Bellows is proposing to debate Republican Sen. Susan Collins 10 times during their race for the U.S. Senate seat Collins now holds.

Severe thunderstorms that swept through the state yesterday hit the town of Rumford particularly hard.

Public Works Director Andy Russell says several roads were badly damaged.  They include the Hall Hill Road, the South Rumford Road, Royal Avenue and the Wyman Hill Road.  

Russell says the 4 to 6 inches of rain that fell on the town washed out some roads, and others were blocked by fallen trees and power lines.

North Atlantic right whale breaching in Cape Cod Bay, May 2009.
Regina Asmutis-Silvia/WDC

A new rule designed to reduce whale deaths from fishing gear entanglement has been finalized and published in the Federal Register.

  The National Marine Fisheries Service rule seeks to limit the number of ropes connecting lobster traps with their marker buoys which float on the surface. Conservation groups say marine mammals, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale, can become entangled in these floating, vertical lines and drown.