Written by David Carkhuff
The South Portland City Council on Monday night voted 6-1 to pass a "Clear Skies Ordinance," which supporters say will protect the city from a "tar sands" crude oil terminal but that opponents described as a futile gesture based on unflagging oil demand.
"We strongly support this ordinance," said said Ivy Fignoca, a staff attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, arguing the ordinance was "carefully crafted to only limit the bulk loading of crude oil onto vessels."
"The ordinance does not prohibit any existing use," she said.
Environmental groups and residents gathered on the Maine State Pier Tuesday to reflect on the city council action that culminated months of debate.
Twenty meetings and "hundreds of hours spent reviewing the evidence" went into the ordinance, Fignoca said.
Anticipating a legal challenge, Fignoca vowed to "vigorously defend the legal basis for these ordinances."
Others described the city council vote as a watershed moment in a longstanding battle.
"When out-of-state oil interests come to try and pollute a Maine town, we know how to say no," said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Voorhees called the vote a "resounding message all across the region and all across the continent that, yes, it is possible to face down the threats of tar sands oil, and yes it is possible to overcome the interests who want to stop at nothing to pursue those tar sands profits."
Industry representatives say the term "tar sands" is a misnomer, noting the industry preferred term of "oil sands" refers to the diluted bitumen originating largely in Canada.
According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, "Canada's 174 billion barrels is third only to Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Oil sands account for over 97 per cent of that vast reserve: 169 billion barrels of oil, with the potential for over 100 years of production."
"Cumulative investment in the development of Canada's oil sands in the past decade alone has surpassed $100 billion, and hundreds of billions more are expected over the next 25 years, according to the Conference Board of Canada," the association reported.
A year ago, when the "tar sands" debate was heating up in Maine, Patrick Binns, Canadian consul general to New England, argued that the denial of exporting capacity from communities will not stem the flow of diluted bitumen.
"We will continue to need oil for decades," Binns said at the time. "A reality for all of us is that Canada's oil sands are part of our energy future."
Opponents of "tar sands" oil said the city of South Portland approached the issue thoughtfully, and developed the ordinance "after Protect South Portland's neighbor-to-neighbor campaign educated and mobilized the community against tar sands over the last year and a half."
"To be clear, Toxics Action Center would be fighting this dangerous proposal in any town, but I am from South Portland, so this victory has a special meaning for me," said Andy Jones, a South Portland resident and organizer for the Toxics Action Center, during Tuesday's press event. "It means that my friends, neighbors and family members will be protected from toxic air pollution."
The South Portland Planning Board found in a 6-1 vote last week that the Clear Skies Ordinance was consistent with South Portland's comprehensive plan.
At issue is concern that oil companies will use the Portland Montreal Pipe Line from South Portland to Montreal, Quebec, Canada to carry "tar sands" oil from Canada to Casco Bay, where it would be loaded
onto tankers for export, according to opponents.
In May 2013, the Portland City Council passed by a vote of 7-2 a resolution expressing concern with oil industry's potential use of the aging Portland-Montreal pipeline to carry "tar sands" through the Sebago Lake watershed and to Portland Harbor, where it would be loaded onto tankers. The Portland City Council stopped short of prohibiting the pumping of "tar sands."
Last Updated on Friday, 25 July 2014 00:07
Written by David Carkhuff
BIDDEFORD — Defenders of Market Basket's ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas stood in near-90-degree heat Wednesday, gathering signatures on a petition and wielding signs urging the supermarket chain's board of directors to reinstate Demoulas and rehire fired employees.
The chain's board was expected to meet Friday at 4 p.m. in Boston.
"We're trying to keep it a family company, since the beginning of the company, since the very first founders it's been a family-owned company, it's been about the customers, now it's starting to feel like the rest of corporate America," said Wesley Ketcham, one of the Biddeford protesters.
"We're willing to take a stand in what we believe in, stick our necks out," Ketcham said.
Ketcham said nearly all customers entering the store support the employees.
"We're strong enough. We're all a family, customers and employees, we're all one family, and we're fighting, and we'll go down fighting," he said.
Asked what he would say to the board, Zach Guy, who works in the Market Basket meat department, said, "Look at the people you're affecting, all the customers that are without food right now, and not only that, the employees; the company in general, it's bad for our image, it's bad for productivity, it's bad for everything. I just hope they can come to a conclusion."
"I've done many things for the company, I've worked in the stores, grocery is where I started back in 1967, at the present moment I'm working in the warehouse," said Bob Masson, a 41-year employee with Market Basket.
Masson is one of the employees who walked out in protest over the ouster of Demoulas.
"I did walk out on Friday, in support of him, because he would support me, I have no doubt in my mind, he'd support me. He's a great man."
Masson described the hands-on approach of the former CEO.
"I'm always covered in grease and dirt, and one day he came up to me, I had to show him my hands and how filthy they were, and he said, 'Nah, you work for me, give me a hug!' I've talked to him many other times. His door was wide open all the time. He had the open-door policy, if you need help, he'll be right there to help you."
Last weekend, at least eight Market Basket employees were fired for organizing a protest supporting Arthur T. Demoulas. Now activists are taking to the Internet with a Care2 petition demanding Demoulas be reinstated, which has gathered more than 12,000 signatures, organizers said. The petition is available at http://www.care2.com/go/z/MktBasket.
Critics of the current management report that Demoulas was fired late last month by a board controlled by his cousin and rival, Arthur S. Demoulas. Market Basket was founded by their grandfather, and the two family members have feuded over control of the company for decades, according to employees fighting to restore the former CEO's control in the company.
The Save Market Basket Facebook page reported on Wednesday, "Friday, July 25. Rally Time! On Friday, July 25, at 9 a.m. we will stage what we hope will be our biggest and final rally. We say final because we believe that if the BOD (board of directors) does the right thing Friday afternoon we'll have ATD (Arthur T. Demoulas) back. We will meet at the same place, 10 Main Street, Tewksbury, to put the finishing touch on our week of protest and celebrate who and what we are. We are in the midst of what will most likely be the biggest and most important cause any of us will ever be a part of. The eyes of the nation are on us as we march forward with unwavering resolve to get ATD back in charge and put Market Basket back on track."
The page's post continues, "Our fight has been joined by tens of thousands. Associates, vendors, media, politicians and most importantly, our customers. We call on our customers to join us Friday and make this rally yours. Your participation in supporting us by boycotting Market Basket until this is seen through is the single most powerful weapon we have. We ask that you continue to shop elsewhere and let your voices be heard both at the rally and in ASD's (Arthur S. Demoulas's) wallet! We fervently hope that Friday, when the Board meets at 4 p.m. in the Prudential Center in Boston, our revolution ends with the proper resolution. They can put an end to all of this with a simple vote to do what is right: return Arthur T. Demoulas to his role of President and CEO. The three 'Independent' members, Keith Cowan, Ron Weiner and Eric Gebaide have their reputations and potentially their financial well being on the line. They have a fiduciary obligation to do what is best for this company. They must to do what is best for New England. Then must to do what is best for the customers."
Jacqui Deveneau, a longtime activist in the Portland area, reported on July 22 about the plight of employees, including herself: "They held a huge rally at the MB headquarters in Mass. yesterday and right after, (the board) fired the top management that went to it! This alone is enough to stand with them for. But more so the fact that Market Basket employs hundreds of people and brings low prices and quality food. Their plan was to spread all over Maine, so not only are 25,000 employees' jobs at peril, but all those who could have these wonderful jobs that need them all over Maine will be denied! All for one man. I went to the Biddeford Market Basket this morning to give my support to my fellow employees, as a laid off employee, and stand with a sign by the road to let as many folks as we can know what is happening. It was like going to a funeral walking through the wonderful store that I helped open last year."
The troubles of Market Basket have generated nationwide headlines and even the attention of members of Congress.
U.S. Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., issued a statement on July 23 about the on-going issue at Market Basket, stating, "I stand with Market Basket employees and urge the new management to listen to their concerns, treat them fairly, and respect their voices. I believe it is in the company, customer and community's best interest for these employees — some of whom have worked at Market Basket for decades — to be able to articulate their views without having to fear losing their jobs or earned benefits."
On Thursday, the Boston Globe reported, "Arthur T. Demoulas on Wednesday said he will make an offer to buy the Market Basket supermarket chain, seeking to regain control of the fractured company and end the decades-long family feud that has exploded into an extraordinary public spectacle this month. Demoulas said in a statement that he and his side of the family will try to buy the 50.5 percent of Market Basket now controlled by opposing relatives who supported his firing last month as president of the company."
Last Updated on Friday, 25 July 2014 00:06
Written by David Carkhuff
A workshop on the future of Congress Square prompted several Portland city councilors to pause and consider an events center in the public plaza, with the idea of building a park on top of the building.
City Councilor Nick Mavodones worried that bodies such as the city's parks commission had been stripped of authority because of a public referendum in June seeking to halt the proposed sale of part of Congress Square Park.
"This community is divided and will continue to be divided on this issue," Mavodones said. "I mentioned earlier the parks commission being neutered, to some extent the council has as a result of the ordinance."
The Westin Portland Harborview completed an 18-month, $50 million restoration and renovation project prior to reopening the historic hotel.
As the renovation took place, the city council voted 6-3 to sell a Congress Square Park parcel to these neighboring property owners.
RockBridge — the developers of the newly opened Westin Portland Harborview, formerly the Eastland Park Hotel — aimed to use the acquired piece of the park to build a 9,400-square-foot events center off the hotel. The 4,800 square feet remaining of the plaza would be the subject of a redesign and visioning process by the city, based on the city council's vote in September 2013.
Ten months later, the Friends of Congress Square Park successfully placed a citizen's initiative on the June 10 ballot, which ended up negating the sale and placing stricter standards on disposal of public parks.
As a result of a citizen's referendum, seven votes by the City Council would be needed at minimum to approve a park sale on condition that the proposal then would go to public vote. Eight council votes would allow the sale outright without a public vote. There are eight councilors and a mayor under Portland's form of government.
Councilor Kevin Donoghue said, "Is it not a critical threshold for moving forward with any variety of sale the seven votes? Have we established tonight that's possible?"
Mayor Michael Brennan said, "I didn't hear anybody tonight say they wanted to start that process at the next meeting."
But there clearly was interest in a proposal, floated in a staff memo, to proceed with the events center plan and then build a public park on top of the building.
Jeff Levine, planning and urban development director for the city, described an option that would pay to build a park on top of an events center.
"The plaza price obviously varies somewhat," he cautioned, but he estimated a cost of $1.5 million or more for a full plaza redesign.
With an events center, the cost rises, he said.
"We definitely tried to peel out what it costs to do the hybrid, an events center with a plaza that started out at ground level and worked its way over an events center," Levine said.
Rough estimates land in the $1.5 million to $2.5 million range for this "hybrid," although those figures do not include a $500,000 events center, Levine cautioned.
Asked if RockBridge would be open to the park-on-an-events-center idea, Nathan Smith, an attorney representing RockBridge, said, "I think the answer is yes, provided there is a clear understanding that the incremental costs that involves that piece, that would be something that is borne by the city, that would be public space and public cost. ..."
Mavodones said, "I'm intrigued by the concept, but it's much more bold than the other options."
Councilor Jon Hinck voiced "skepticism" that the city could place a park on an events center without causing the cost to skyrocket.
Councilor Cheryl Leeman wondered why the design alternatives had not been passed through the Congress Square Redesign Study Group, which was authorized by the city council to advise councilors about design options in Congress Square.
Leeman worried that the alternatives circulated in the memo Monday afternoon might "preempt the process."
Brennan said he instructed staff to develop the alternatives in a memo as "a stepping off point for discussion by the council."
Protect Portland Parks member David LaCasse said ample work has been done in reviewing the park, with visioning sessions and multiple meetings devoted to the space's improvement.
LaCasse said, "We would like to see it expanded to include the entire square and park. We're open to discussion."
But councilors remained interested in the idea of an events center with public space on top.
Councilor Ed Suslovic said, "I, too, find number three (the third memo option), the combination of an events center with public space above the events center — with not much of a diminution of the total square footage available to the public now — that one looks intriguing. I, too, am concerned about costs."
Suslovic also cautioned that public fundraising can be difficult when the public perceives a fundraising objective as a municipal project.
Suslovic said he was comfortable pursuing the events center with public space on its roof without channeling discussions through other panels first.
"We're the only group that is elected by the people," he said, cautioning that the process should not prevent council leadership.
"I'm not as troubled by the council taking a leadership role on this issue, like we have to do with virtually every issue, because the buck stops with us, we're the only group that is answerable directly to the people," Suslovic said.
Donoghue said the idea of building a park on top of an events center was an idea considered and dismissed four years ago.
"I guess I get concerned about going the same pathway with a park redesign that's predicated on a private deal, that's predicated on a structure, and if you don't end up completing the business deal, then you've spent even more design money and you still don't have a park," Donoghue said.
Leeman invoked "integrity and respect" for the citizen's referendum during her peppering of city staff with questions about park-improvement options.
City Attorney Danielle West-Chuhta, when asked about the timeline to place a proposal on the fall ballot to allow the events center, said, "It's very tight, it's only a little over a month."
Asked by Mavodones about how the citizen's initiative governs city council voting regarding a proposed sale, West-Chuhta said, "It could be seven or eight. ... If you had eight votes, you don't go to the voters. If you have seven, you go to the voters. ... If you had six, under what you have in place right now, you're done. It's finished. ... You're going nowhere."
West-Chuhta said she doesn't believe a public signature-gathering effort could be employed to negate the referendum and allow a sale without the stricter vote thresholds.
"I don't see that being allowed," she said.
Under the scenario of councilors pursuing a sale, an Aug. 4 land bank review and referral and a September City Council vote could precede a public vote in November. But no firm decisions were reached during the workshop.
"I need a little more time and a little more information," Mavodones said, echoing how many other councilors felt.
Monday's workshop was the latest twist and turn in a long-running drama centering on Congress Square Park.
Last year, the group opposed to the city's plan to sell part of the plaza to the hotel developers met to discuss their strategy, and on Sept. 6, 2013, the group filed their citizen's initiative seeking protection of parks and open spaces throughout the city. On Sept. 13, 2013, the city's Corporate Counsel denied this petition initiative. On Sept. 25, 2013, the group flied a lawsuit challenging the city's rejection of the petition initiative.
Judge Joyce Wheeler ruled that the city must issue petitions to the Friends of Congress Square because, the judge ruled, the group's proposed parks ordinance falls within the guidelines of what's an appropriate citizens initiative.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 July 2014 02:32
Written by Timothy Gillis
The Maine Irish Heritage Center will screen a new documentary called "The Minnitts of Anabeg" on Wednesday, July 23, at 7:30 p.m. The film is based on a true story about a Protestant man from a wealthy family in County Tipperary who marries a Catholic during the 1850s Irish famine.
Patrick Bergin, from "Patriot Games" and "Sleeping with the Enemy," stars in the film as Lord Goode. The main narrative thread is this Protestant man who is disowned by his own wealthy father. Shot on location in Tipperary, the film won Best Original Screenplay at the International Film Festival in Ireland. Director Alan Brown will talk about his film and take questions from the audience after the screening on Wednesday. He has a personal interest in the Minnitts, as he's a distant relative. Brown spoke from London last week about the film and how he put it together.
"It's been a few generations since my family have lived in Ireland, but I've still got family members there." he said. "I came across the story (of the Minnitts) years ago, and it took me years to research it."
The Minnitts arrived in Ireland around the time of Oliver Cromwell, who invaded and took the land from France in the 1600s, Brown said.
"The main part of the story is around the famine and how Joshua Minnitt, who is the land owner at the time, had to disinherit his son because he married a local Catholic girl. It was during the famine, and he was helping to save the community. His son ended up living in a small cottage on the corner of the land. That's really the story: this relationship, the love story this guy has with a local Catholic girl."
The crew went to the town of Nenagh in County Tipperary to shoot the film, rife with painfully ironic scenes of shiploads of cattle leaving the country while people are dying of starvation.
"The famine is the backdrop to the story," Brown said. "It's a true story about a very important time in Irish history, especially for Irish Americans - a story about immigration that tells of the critical time in Irish history."
The film is the first in a trilogy that Brown has planned around the topic of the famine.
He will begin filming the second one this fall. It's Brown's first time in Portland, Maine. He is also going to Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Baltimore to screen the documentary. The movie is an hour and a half long, and is suitable for all ages.
"The Minnitts of Anabeg"
film screening and Q&A with director
Wednesday, July 23, at 7:30 p.m.
at the Maine Irish Heritage Center
34 Gray Street in Portland
Running time is 95 minutes
$5 admission; free for members.
For more information, visit www.maineirish.com and www.minnittsatanabeg.com.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 July 2014 01:16
Written by David Carkhuff
WELLS — At the 12th annual Val Ranco Pow-Wow Saturday and Sunday, empty chairs in an enclosure poignantly reminded those attending of the important elders who had died in recent days and months.
Allan Neptune, Penobscot elder, died on Tuesday before the pow-wow, which sparked remembrance of even his smallest gestures.
"He was an amazing man, he had a great story, he lived a full life, he was just phenomenal," said New Hampshire Intertribal Native American Council secretary Elise Fowler. "He made these cider doughnuts," and out of respect, his vending site was left vacant during the weekend pow-wow at Wells Harbor Community Park.
"It's just the Indian way," Fowler explained, "We're saying, 'Wow, who's going to make the doughnuts?'"
Sixty or more attended the weekend pow-wow, one of several similar events organized by the council, an organization representing several Native American nations in and around New Hampshire.
Fowler helped raise money for the Native American Toy Fund during the pow-wow.
"We had five different drums today, with people from different areas bringing their different types of music," Fowler said.
The gathering was marked by acknowledgement of elders who had passed.
On Facebook, the council reported on June 4, "Grandfather Chester Nez has passed over. Grandfather Nez was the last original World War 2 Code Talker and we had been Blessed to meet him in October last year, and to sing for him with the Mountain Spirit Singers. Being in the presence of this amazing man was such an honor."
Fowler said, "He was supposed to be able to come to this pow-wow. He was the last original of the 29 code talkers, he was Navajo; we were fortunate enough to be with him in October in Portsmouth, and sing and drum and dance and talk and eat with him."
Also on Facebook, the council reported on May 30, "This morning Grandfather Reggie Amazeen passed over and began his journey into the Spirit World. We have all been so honored and Blessed to have him as a member of our Council and to be able to call him our Brother and friend. Grandfather Reggie's dedication to all the children he taught over 35 years as a school principal, his dedication to the People, and his love for the Native culture will be greatly missed. We will look for him in the Clouds, listen for his voice in the Wind, and know that we are all better people for just having this honor of knowing him. ... Blessings to all, Elise."
Fowler said, "He was actually an educator in the Wolfeboro (N.H.) schools for 45 years, and he was principal for many years."
Fowler added, "He was a Cub Scout leader, and a Boy Scout leader and he was a principal, and when kids didn't have money to go on a ski trip, he came up with the money. He was just a phenomenal, phenomenal meaning of 'grandfather' in our culture."
Fowler said, "We just lost three amazing grandfathers that we won't ever be able to replace."
Peter Newell of Effingham, N.H., said the annual Lou "Black Eagle" Memorial Powwow in North Conway, N.H. — Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 2 and 3 at Hussey Field on River Road in North Conway — memorializes Lou Ciarfella, another elder who made an impact.
"Lou 'Black Eagle' was one of our elders who did a lot for the children of our group," Newell said. "We would have our toy run ... we take toys up to all five reservations in Maine, and we take clothes and food and all kinds of stuff up there." Ciarfella was instrumental in that effort, he said.
On both Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 2 and 3, the gate opens at 9 a.m., with Grand Entry at noon.
Organizers expect four or five drums at the North Conway pow-wow.
According to the council, "Pow-Wow time is Aboriginal or otherwise known as the Native American Peoples getting together to join in dancing, visiting, renewing, sleeping-over, renewing old friendships and making new ones. This is a time to renew thoughts of the old ways and to preserve a rich heritage!"
For more information, visit http://nhinac.weebly.com.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 July 2014 02:33