In two weeks, the Portland City Council will be voting on whether or not to sell a public park to a private developer for the purpose of building an additional hotel convention center. Last year, the council voted for a tax break, effectively spending $31 million in public money to create the new Thompson’s Point complex, which includes a convention center.
According to the Brookings Institution, convention spaces across the U.S. have increased by 50 percent in the past 20 years. Over the past 10 years, spending on U.S. convention spaces has doubled to $2.4 billion annually, most of which comes from public coffers.
The problem is that the actual number of businesses hosting conventions has steadily fallen over the past 15 years. Attendance at the largest 200 conventions peaked back in the mid-1990s. Due to the popularity of Skype and online conferences, businesses no longer need to hold physical conferences and spend money on travel and lodging at physical conventions and meetings.
By contrast, urban developers in the United States are finally catching up to the emerging trend that city planners have known for centuries — public parks create happiness, commerce, leisure and health in congested and often polluted urban areas. Food gardens, green spaces and fresh air are all the rage in popular parks.
During the era of “urban renewal,” Portland sold chunks of its public parks, including Lincoln Park and Deering Oaks, in order to make room for more cars and more business on the peninsula. Unfortunately, a comparable space has never been restored and the sale of Congress Square park would be the first time that a community in Maine has sold a majority of an in-town park to private developers. With the certain death of conventions, Portland developers must stop looking to the past and start looking to our greener future.
Cutler, Michaud set table for a LePage win in 2014
Now that Rep. Mike Michaud has officially announced his candidacy for governor, the stage is set for a repeat performance of the previous gubernatorial election. The same result appears to be inevitable.
With Eliot Cutler once again running as an independent, we will be subjected once more to a multi-candidate contest. Cutler has already begun his campaign with news releases that inexplicably criticize Michaud, not the sitting governor.
In his column of July 17 (“Challengers should challenge LePage and not each other”), Greg Kesich suggested: “If Cutler wants to run against Michaud, he should do it — next June in the Democratic primary.” Cutler may not be in full agreement with the Democratic ideology, but his entering the primary and freely expressing his own views is preferable to a continuation of the disastrous LePage administration.
A coalition of Democrats and Independents would ensure the election of a governor who will actually represent all the people of Maine, not just a favored minority. Both Michaud and Cutler are acceptable, qualified candidates and either one would be preferable to Paul LePage.
There are other options for the 2014 contest. LePage might suddenly decide to retire from public life and return to the private sector, which is more forgiving of his volatile temperament. Such a gesture is highly unlikely.
The legislature might pass a law requiring a runoff vote in multiple-candidate elections. Regrettably it is not likely to survive a LePage veto.
If Michaud and Cutler do not seriously consider Kesich’s advice to run against the incumbent and not each other, the outcome of the election may very well be four more years of LePage’s eccentric actions and his penchant for “speaking his mind freely.”
The governor and his hard-core supporters, with the benefit of another divided vote, may very well have the last laugh and it will be on our state.
Suzanne Nance’s presence will be missed in Maine
Yes, we at Portland Ballet shall miss the divine voice of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s Suzanne Nance. And her intellectual curiosity. And her humor. And the myriad reasons she selected her classical morning “playlist.”
Her candor and enthusiasm drew listeners in time and time again, often causing many to wait just a few more minutes in a car to finish hearing some tidbit about a composer or listening to the piece she had just started.
From performing with community arts organizations, interviewing artists and even providing the narration for our children’s production of “Little Red Riding Hood,” Ms. Nance has been engaged (yes, I know: Congratulations!) and a consistent catalyst for the performing arts. Gloriously, she was willing to share her enthusiasm for music throughout Maine before heading to Chicago.
We shall miss Suzanne Nance — introducing new music to our ears was such a small portion of her creative identity — and how fortunate we are to have had her here. Thank you, Suzanne.
Eugenia L. O’Brien
artistic director, Portland Ballet
Letter writer got it wrong about Planned Parenthood
Philip Kennard’s letter to the editor (“Anti-abortion activists can protest where they like,” Aug. 9) says Planned Parenthood offers “precious few healing methods.”
He is flat out wrong. Planned Parenthood is the only place a young woman can go to find the kind of healing that birth control, mammograms, Pap smears, pregnancy testing and nonjudgmental counseling can offer.
Mr. Kennard’s letter, on the other hand, is full of judgment, accusation, hateful rhetoric and misinformation.
Perhaps pro-choice advocates could stand outside Mr. Kennard’s home with their own posters of women and medical personnel killed in the name of “protecting” the unborn. Or perhaps Mr. Kennard could adopt unwanted children and put his energy where it might really heal. Or perhaps we could all stop this ranting, acknowledge that a woman’s body is hers and hers alone, and get on with making the world a better place.
Judge not, for in your judgment is but judgment of yourself. Only kindness and understanding heal. In my experience, that is all I’ve ever received at Planned Parenthood.