Sunday, March 9, 2014
The sale of part of Congress Square Park to the new owners of the Eastland Hotel may go down in Portland's history as one of the great mistakes, along with: 1) the demolition of Union Station; 2) the abandonment of Portland Public Market by the Libra Foundation, and 3) the failure to develop the State Pier as part of the Ocean Gateway project.
The clock tower at Union Station is razed in 1961. Along with the destruction of the former railroad terminal, the sale of part of Congress Square Plaza may go down in history as one of the city’s “great mistakes,” a reader says.
1961 Gannett Publishing File Photo/Donald Johnson
In council, Cheryl Leeman's amendments did little to improve the articles of the original sale agreement or to address concerns with it on the part of Greater Portland Landmarks and members of the public, including a lawsuit that may give Rockbridge Capital reason to renege on the deal, let alone the complication of delaying sale until after all city approvals.
The sale agreement is certainly in the hotel's favor, since they only had to purchase two-thirds of the undervalued property, knowing full well that the other third will serve as their plaza, where conference guests may gather during intermissions of events indoors and outnumber all else, making city officials regret not selling them the whole parcel.
In retrospect, since the City Council has approved the sale, the hotel's plans seem meager and uninspired.
They could have, for instance, designed a new hotel entrance that faced Congress Square, created more room for embarking and disembarking hotel guests in comfort without disturbing traffic on High Street, and included a ground-level outdoor cafe.
But this was not the first incarnation of the Eastland Hotel and may not be the last, as its ownership invariably changes hands in the years to come.
Meanwhile, a parcel of public property in the midst of Congress Square is lost forever, having been transformed into the Malaga Island of Back Street, as Congress Street was once known, by the scurrilous remarks of the public in 2013.
Poland Spring truck drivers respect town's pedestrians
I live on Main Street in Steep Falls, a small town that has a lot of children playing near the streets. The speed limit for Route 11 is 25 mph. Most people exceed 35 to 40 mph, making it very dangerous for children and the many, many in my community who walk to exercise.
The Poland Spring truck drivers who go by my house on a daily basis are very safety-minded and respectful. They travel at the speed limit or below and always will have a friendly wave to me and my neighbors whenever we are out.
I have also followed them up Route 117. Whenever they encounter a big hill, they will put their flashers on to warn traffic behind them that they are about to slow down. Each of them should be commended for the way they drive and the managers who require that they do so.
I want to say "thank you" for the safety of our neighborhood. And I wish for them to know that our little town appreciates the respect they have for us!
Francis "J.R." Abbott
Farmers versus Monsanto is David-and-Goliath case
I have been following the case pitting the farmers versus Monsanto ("Maine farmers appeal Monsanto case to Supreme Court," Sept. 6). I firmly believe that Monsanto is wrong. I, for one, would like Monsanto to lose.
You can ask any Vietnam veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange, and they will tell you that Monsanto is wrong. Monsanto is one of the chemical companies that made this product.
I also believe the only reason Monsanto won the case is because they have the money to beat the small organic farmers. Also, President Obama has one of Monsanto's bigwigs working for him.
I, for one, was exposed to Agent Orange, which was stored in the city of Da Nang, where I was stationed.
The Portland Press Herald has done some reports on this killing agent in the past. I say, "Down with these big chemical companies." I hope they lose by going to the Supreme Court.
They do need to be exposed. Wouldn't you like to know what they are putting in our food? Look what they tried to do to the dairy farmers. Oakhurst Dairy beat them, and I hope the organic farmers do, too.
Robert H. Sawyer
Local tar sands opposition based on warming concerns
In a recent letter ("Tar sands oil isn't the bogeyman," Sept. 4), Elliot Rappaport explained why he isn't worried about tar sands oil flowing through Maine.
While there are many details of his analysis that I might contest, I was most struck by his final comment: "If we are unhappy with the consequences of our demand for energy, we need to find ways to use less, not wage piecemeal fights against each imagined threat to the landscape."
I am indeed unhappy with the consequences of our society's addiction to fossil fuels.
In addition to the devastating effects of tar sands extraction detailed by Mr. Rappaport, our energy use has led to the severe threat to our economy posed by global warming.
Every serious scientist acknowledges that this threat is both real and manmade. We're already feeling its effects: nationally in Midwest droughts that cost U.S. taxpayers $100 billion last year, locally in last winter's superstorm.
It's time to address the problem before we reap the consequences, whether storms flooding Portland, catastrophic impacts on fisheries or just the end of Maine's sledding season.
Whatever the costs of ending our dependence on fossil fuels, it's worth paying them now, rather than suffering the greater costs brought by climate change. Moreover, switching will also bring benefits, including jobs from new, Maine-based fuel and electricity.
So on one level, I agree with Mr. Rappaport. We need to start using less energy. We also need to explore alternative sources, from solar panels on our roofs, to synthetic alternatives to gasoline, to returning to wood as a primary heating fuel.
But long-term, we must wean ourselves off oil, and not start using an energy source as inefficient as tar sands. So while the issue is larger than just the pipeline, this "piecemeal" local fight is one way Maine can and should do its part.