2016-09-16 / Letters

What’s happening to our city government?

To the editor:

Is representative democracy in South Portland becoming

an endangered concept of how municipalities should be governed? Whether you agree or not, there is little question that governance in the city has morphed into a very unpleasant, arrogant and self-congratulatory version of its former composition. Worse yet, are we letting a small minority of vocal residents set the agenda? First, let’s consider the Clear Skies ordinance: At what point in the legal process does the city say enough is enough and in the interest of fiscal restraint, cut its losses and hope for the best? I voted for Clear Skies but the reality is that Portland Pipeline, its co-litigants and the oil industry have deeper pockets than South Portland so when does the city admit defeat and move on? Not soon, I suspect. Protect South Portland won’t let that happen. Close to a million dollars and counting.

Next up, the NGL process: NGL is the company that wanted to put a propane storage facility in South Portland. Regardless of whether or not you believe that the city was correct, most objective followers of the deliberations would conclude that between the council, city staff and legal council, the process was a mess and did not reflect well on the city. Again, did outside groups exercise a disproportionate influence?

Moving on to the pesticide ordinance: Despite the fact that that the rationale for the ordinance cannot be substantiated by any medical or scientific evidence and furthermore cannot be enforced, the city council approved it but saying that the “better safe than sorry” reasoning is good enough. Let’s hope that this kind of “group think” ends with this regulation. Note to Ms. Priscilla Skerry (“Reader didn’t like the way meeting was covered,” Sept. 9 Sentry): IPM is not a company or an organization. It is a strategy to reduce the use of pesticides. Also, the ordinance does not allow IPM to continue in South Portland per Sec. 32.5 of the ordinance.

One more point regarding this ordinance and the process by which it was adopted. The Conservation Commission had posed several written questions to Julie Rosenbach, the city’s sustainability manager and lead individual writing the ordinance. Her reply to these questions was a verbatim cut and paste response provided by a paid advocacy group in Washington, D.C. This is a fact proven by a FOAA request. Without attribution, this is plagiarism, pure and simple. If you can’t answer the questions, why are you writing the ordinance? And why do we have this ordinance in the first place? Look no further than Protect South Portland.

Finally, let’s address Mayor Tom Blake’s (and other council member’s) disdain for citizen initiatives. It appears that rather than allow its residents the opportunity to vote on a charter amendment (as recommended by outside council) to limit the amount of time required to complete a citizen’s petition, Mayor Blake is proposing to make this change via ordinance as a means to thwart the will of the people and thus eliminate a possible defeat at the polls. You’re better than that, Tom.

Clearly, between the council and a few vocal groups external to City Hall, we are losing control of our great city. This November we will be electing two new city councilors, one to replace Tom Blake and one to replace Maxine Beecher (hopefully) who is running for re-election. We need a council who is interested in representing all of us and not just a few. We also a need a council that spends more time listening and less time pontificating, lecturing and worrying about their legacy.

Charles McNutt South Portland

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