The HS Electra unloads its cargo of oil in South Portland in March. South Portland city councilors excluded the public from discussion of a statement opposing a proposed ban on the potential handling of tar sands petroleum in the city, a letter writer says.
On Oct. 14, a holiday when city councils do not meet, five of South Portland’s seven city councilors signed a letter indicating opposition to the citizens’ initiative on the Nov. 5 ballot (“Five on S. Portland council reject oil initiative,” Oct. 15).
They acted outside a public meeting, without public notice or opportunity for public comment, and without notice to the two remaining councilors.
They emailed their signed statement to nine media outlets. Evidencing their calculated effort to circumvent Maine’s open meeting law, their cover email stated, “the second page of the file is my documentation of when and where there was signature by the individual councilors to document that the councilors did not meet as a group.”
Clandestine meetings of five of South Portland’s seven councilors – whether by email, telephone, personal interaction or otherwise – violate the open meeting law. A series of meetings one after another is a violation just like a group meeting.
Maine courts have not expressly so held, but many other courts are clear (www.openmeetinglaws.com: Section 6.34 and the following).
Maine defines “public proceeding” as “transactions of any functions affecting any or all citizens of the State by ... (a)ny board, commission, agency or authority of any ... municipality ... .” With inapplicable exceptions, “all public proceedings must be open to the public and any person must be permitted to attend a public proceeding.”
Maine’s Legislature “declares that public proceedings exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business” and that “clandestine meetings, conferences or meetings held on private property without proper notice and ample opportunity for attendance by the public not be used to defeat the purposes of this subchapter.”
All elected officials receive training in open meeting requirements (Maine Statutes Title 1, Sections 401-03, 412; http://www.maine.gov/foaa/Training/index.shtml).
Powerful democratic policies support open meeting laws, adopted throughout the U.S., to ensure that the people’s business is done in public.
Ann Taylor Schwing
author,“Open Meeting Laws 3d”
To ease risk to health, jobs, back waterfront ordinance
There is heated debate on whether to adopt a zoning ordinance change to prevent the Portland Pipe Line Corp. from pumping tar sands oil onto ships for export. Rather than listen to all the experts and politicians, I have done my own research and found there are unacceptable risks.
If spilled in the water, tar sands is impossible to clean up with existing technology. A spill in the harbor could cause a permanent shutdown of the Casco Bay lobster fishery. In 2012, 13 million pounds of lobsters were landed in Casco Bay, with a boat price of $39 million. That’s a lot of local jobs.
Loading of tar sands will require releasing tons of volatile organic compounds in the air, which will be hazardous to everyone’s health in Greater Portland.
I have carefully read and shared the proposed ordinance with a couple of lawyer friends and concluded it will not adversely affect any waterfront businesses. Oil industry trade journals say tar sands will be exported through the Portland Pipe Line. The question is when.
I have decided to vote for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance on Nov. 5. This is not the first time South Portland residents have stood up to Big Oil. In 1969, we defeated a proposal by Maine Clean Fuels to build a $150 million fuel desulfurization plant on outer Highland Avenue. We can do it again.
I am a lifelong South Portland resident and a senior citizen on a fixed income. My health and that of our community is more important than saving a few tax dollars.
Question 1 would prevent unnecessary pot arrests
I urge citizens of Portland to vote “yes” on Question 1 on Nov. 5 and legalize adult possession of small amounts of marijuana in Portland. The current law causes more problems than it solves.
Attitudes about marijuana are changing (“High hopes for legalizing marijuana in Maine,” Oct. 13), and for good reason. Enforcement of laws for low-level marijuana possession needlessly ensnares people, many of them young, in our criminal justice system. This often results in a criminal record that can negatively affect people for life – including making it harder to get a job or secure student loans.
Unnecessary arrests also crowd our jails, clog our courts, waste our tax dollars and divert scarce police resources away from focusing on serious crime. Further, there is scant evidence that these laws are effective in reducing marijuana use.
According to data from the FBI/Uniform Crime Reporting Program, in 2010 more than 80 percent of marijuana arrests in Maine were for possession only. Let’s stop criminalizing our citizens for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. Let’s not ignore the real problems created by current law. Please vote “yes” on Question 1 on Nov. 5.
Most ‘drug-related crime’ stems from prohibition laws
I hope the governor’s Drug Awareness Summits make a distinction between “drug-related” crime and “drug prohibition-related” crime, but I doubt they will (“LePage, law enforcement to discuss drug crime,” Oct. 20).
Most of the so-called “drug-related crime” is actually a product of drug prohibition, not the drugs. For example, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was a product of alcohol prohibition, not alcohol.
Drug dealers don’t kill each other because they are high any more than Al Capone killed his rivals because he was drunk. It’s the way one runs an illegal business. These days I don’t see the Budweiser distributor killing off the Samuel Adams distributor.
The legal, regulated sale of drugs would get rid of most of the crime, corruption and violence associated with drugs. We would still have our drug use problem, but we could begin to treat that as a health problem instead of trying to turn it into a law enforcement problem. Cops are very good at what they do, but they are not addiction counselors.
The organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.leap.cc) has further information on the ways that drug prohibition is causing far more problems than it solves.
citizen member, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition