2013-08-02 / Letters

Letter writer pleads to mayor, council

To the editor:

This is an open letter to Mayor Tom Blake and the South Portland City Council to be the city leaders they were elected to be on the issue of transporting and processing dangerous tar sands from Canada to the literal back yard of South Portland – our beloved shoreline.

In response to the Concerned Citizens of South Portland action collecting required signatures to put the issue to the ballot, Mayor Blake is quoted in the July 5 issue of The Sentry as saying, “This is American government at its best. Where the citizenry initiates legislation.”

Respectfully, Mayor Blake, I could not disagree with you more.

On the contrary, the citizens’ initiative route is used far too often in Maine as a way for elected leaders to sidestep their responsibility. I ask you, mayor and city council, what potential reality poses a greater risk to the health and wellbeing of the residents of South Portland than the prospect of building two 70-foot smokestacks spewing admittedly toxic chemicals into our skies? Is there really a serious argument to be made in favor of allowing the air quality and general quality of life in our city to be so terribly degraded? I have yet to hear one.

Perhaps some recent history will help. In1998, after LGBT advocates statewide failed to get Mainers’ approval for an anti-discrimination bill, the South Portland City Council voted to abdicate its leadership role and put out to vote the civil rights of a minority population of South Portland. It was a way of passing the buck to the voters and forcing a small, committed group of ethical South Portlanders to do the hard work of getting the measure passed. The effort was successful, but I thought then that inaction by the council betrayed a serious lack of leadership.

Inaction by the council now could have much worse consequences. At the very least, you pass the buck to your constituents to do the work to protect our city instead of shouldering that duty by performing the responsibilities called for in your job descriptions.

The kind of heavy industry proposed by ExxonMobile, the parent company of the Portland Pipeline Corp., would cripple tourism in South Portland. Then there is the indisputable danger to our air and drinking water in Casco Bay. In addition, ExxonMobile has a documented history of spills and environmental damage. Two examples include one in Arkansas just this year: insideclimatenews.org/exxon-oilspill arkansas. Another spill happened in 2010 in Kalamazoo, Mich.: www.amazon.com/dp/b008ekh5f6.

Tar sands have been leaking from a spill in Cold Lake, Alberta for months: o.canada.com/2013/07/25/oil-spillalberta underground/. The effect on property values may be the least of our worries in the event of a leak here.

Petition language should not be amended or watered down to allow the proposal to go further, since that would be in direct contravention of the expressed will of the hundreds who signed it and therefore undemocratic in the extreme.

Indeed, it is inconceivable that any employment or revenue from this project could offset the potential financial, environmental and aesthetic destruction the new plant could cause – and none of these consequences takes into account the destruction a spill would create.

Finally, oil industry spokespeople have raised the specter of lost jobs from the proposed ordinance. To my knowledge, the purpose of the document is to prevent tar sands from flowing to South Portland’s shores. No other consequences are necessary from the passage of this measure.

Mayor Blake and city council, please act responsibly as city leaders and protect South Portlanders from this serious threat to the abundant natural resources and the very way of life South Portlanders and others in the Casco Bay enjoy.

Eve A. Raimon
South Portland

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