2013-10-04 / Letters

Vote no – don’t listen to tactics

To the editor:

South Portland has been one of the nicest places to live in America. People have flocked to this community that has diversity in its landscape and its people. Our modern history more accurately dates not from 1898 as you see on some of our city signs, but to 1733, when residents organized as the Second Parish of Falmouth and began a process of improving our community – a history of planned improvement that has spanned 280 years.

I have been a life-long resident and those who know me know that I have had a limitless passion for South Portland and for undertaking projects that go toward improving the quality of life here. So it is incredibly disheartening to see some residents putting their energy and passion into an agenda that was brought here by outside interests and that will culminate on our ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 5. I’m talking, of course, about the Waterfront Protection Ordinance that stands to deconstruct, in one year, much of the work that our predecessors have done to make this place the desirable community that it is.

Some visitors might initially look at South Portland and wonder about our lives here. We have large areas with fuel storage tanks, areas with heavy industrial use, semiconductor businesses, banks and restaurants galore, we have the Maine Mall … and yet our residential community is spread out through the midst of all this with a Greenbelt Walkway that we walk, jog and bike from our huge Wainwright Field complex all the way to what is a gem in Maine, Bug Light Park. We have a tremendous community center, a free public beach, and parks throughout that are well-planned and provide wonderful green space for residents. We have tussled with dog issues and have gradually reached a fine line of sharing our spaces that tries to accommodate all of the people with different needs and interests.

It’s a delicate balance here in South Portland, a balance that is the end result of 280 years of community planning. We have always understood that this balance we have forged between our businesses and our residents is a relationship that is mutually beneficial. Our businesses support our tax base. We have seen our businesses not as “bad” but as “us” – these are our companies, the ones that employ our friends and neighbors. While outside interests have attacked Portland Pipe Line and tried to scare our residents into seeing “Big Oil,” what I see is a company of many people that I have known for years, people with families who live in South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, and other local towns, who have spent their careers working for a great company that offers high quality jobs. I see a South Portland company which, for the last two years, has won an award as the safest company in its industry in America. I’m proud of them. I also see a company that has worked with our residents over the years to develop Bug Light Park into the gem we enjoy today (five acres of that park are owned by the Pipeline and we use it with thanks and gratitude), that donated a building to make our city’s history museum possible, that helped to create the Greenbelt (I am grateful for their cooperation and that they allow us to use their land), that responds instantly to residents’ concerns, that, when the city comes calling has said, “How can we help?” They set the very best example of what a community-minded company should look like.

We have a history of knowing how to plan our community – it is a history that includes all residents and includes making our ordinances fair and balanced to all by vetting them through our planning board and city council. The Waterfront Protection Ordinance was presented to the planning board and hopefully you know by now what that result was, but because of the method in which this was introduced, our planning board couldn’t do anything about it. The outside interests don’t care about South Portland and the effects here, but they do know that using the form of a people’s petition will enable it to skip the normal planning process because that process would bring to light facts they would rather you not know. Proponents of the Waterfront Protection Ordinance will say that they know there are flaws in the wording, but they ask you to just approve the ordinance and “we will fine tune it” later. They say it needs to be passed “NOW” because that’s the only way to stop tar sands. They are wrong. There is no proposal to bring tar sands to South Portland – if a proposal did arise, we could deal with it as we’ve done throughout history, and believe me, our residents have risen up plenty of times even in my lifetime and stopped things that we didn’t want. But passing this people’s petition, that was signed by residents who were lied to about why it was needed (it is not), is not how we’ve done business in South Portland and that’s not how we have come to enjoy our community as it is today. Ordinances are municipal laws – you might have good intentions, but they matter not when the law is stated and it must be followed.

There are very real, unintended consequences of passing the proposed Waterfront Protection Ordinance. I’m counting on my fellow citizens to show up at the polls on Nov. 5 – please mark it on your calendar now. The proponents are backed by national interests and money, and those interests understand political lobbying. They will be working hard to sway citizens with misinformation (just look at the signs with the puffy black smoke coming out of giant smokestacks – completely untrue). These interests will get people to the polls and turnout is expected to be low. Your vote is needed to defeat this proposed ordinance change. Please join me in voting no on the Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

Kathy DiPhilippo
South Portland

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