Lobsters are unloaded from a fishing boat in Portland last week.
As much as I sympathize with the plight of the Maine lobstermen, anyone who has run their own business knows that there is high risk, whether it is due to a new competitor, loss of a key client, an economic downturn or other unforeseen, unplanned circumstance. Generally there is no one to bail out the small-business owner except banks or other financial institutions, who have been difficult to deal with, to say the least, over the past couple of years, in particular.
As per (the Aug. 9) headline concerning restaurant pricing ("Lobster prices hit record lows, but restaurants still charge top dollar"), I definitely am not sympathetic to the dealers and/or restaurant owners who are clearly taking advantage of the low lobster per-pound pricing in order to maximize their profits at the expense of the consumer. They are fortunate, as the article illustrates, that much of their summer business is driven by the visiting tourists, who either may not be aware of the reduced lobster prices or simply don't care.
Interesting that the Canadian lobstermen are complaining about the cheap Maine soft-shell lobsters that are "flooding" the New Brunswick lobster processing plants.
Canadian farmers have been "flooding" the Aroostook County farmers and processing plants with cheap subsidized potatoes for decades. Ditto for the Maine lumber industry. Go figure.
Considering options for Congress Square Park
Portland is noted for being one of the most livable cities in the country. This accolade is given for various reasons, the most important being the green and open spaces in the downtown area: Longfellow Square, Monument Square, Lincoln Park and the spacious vista at the intersection of Congress and High streets. This includes the esplanade before the museum, with a planting of birch trees, while across Congress Street is a beautiful open green space with some 20 or more full-grown trees of various species and shrubs.
The city of Portland has not always been a reliable custodian of public space as the recent "Tracing the Fore" fiasco in Boothby Square bears witness. Now, a hotel ballroom to replace a city park?
The city park by the Eastland Park Hotel is on the chopping block, with many of the beautiful trees to be chopped down for "commercial reuse" of the area.
There is still hope this will not happen. Citizens who enjoy a liveable Portland can join me by speaking out against this abuse of our public space. A call to City Hall is in order.
It has been suggested, as an alternative to the "ballroom" proposed by the Eastland Park Hotel's new owners, that Congress Square and adjacent buildings be redesigned and redeveloped as a "centerpiece" urban plaza.
This will necessitate: 1) raising the topographic elevation of the plaza paving 3 feet to that of Congress Street; 2) reconstructing/renovating the side wall of 593 Congress St.; 3) redesigning/reconstructing the south wall of the Eastland Park Hotel; and 4) redesigning/rebuilding the plaza.
Accordingly, the hotel would construct the proposed ballroom atop the existing south wing of the hotel (with a significant split-level landing at the plaza elevation). The hotel would build a three-story addition, with commercial and/or cultural elements, 20 to 30 feet into public land across the south face of the hotel, with a prominent hotel foyer at the plaza; 593 Congress St. would become a cafe/bakery, or similar such use, with a 90-foot expanse of windows and doors facing the plaza; terrace dining and patio cafe uses would be developed within the north and east edges of the plaza.
For skeptics who doubt the feasibility of such municipal/private-sector action and cooperation, please consider the demise and resurrection of Copley Square in Boston two-decades ago, employing the same grade-change strategy and reconstruction in front of the Copley Plaza Hotel and Boston Public Library.
Also consider the resurrection of the derelict Market Square area of downtown Newburyport, Mass., circa 1975: claiming public space from asphalt paving; building new public plaza spaces; and retrofitting privately owned commercial buildings for adaptive reuse.
If this proposal for Congress Square Plaza is not affordable or achievable today, in the present economic and political environment, I counsel patience; do not squander this resource but rather "land bank" it until we have restored our optimism, reinvigorated our economy and rebuilt a more egalitarian civil society.
Charles A. Alden, RLA, AICP
retired urban designer, Portland
Reader defends right to own 'assault weapons'
There have been quite a few recent letters about how nobody needs a so-called "assault weapon" to hunt deer or protect oneself, so I thought I'd present a few facts to rebut that erroneous claim. First of all, assault weapons are excellent choices for protecting yourself and your family; they fire lower-powered ammunition than typical "hunting rifles" and won't blow through several walls in your house and go on to your neighbor's. Try that with your hunting rifle.
Next, while generally not suitable for hunting larger game because of their lower-powered ammunition, assault weapons are very common with varmint hunters. The 5.56x45 NATO round used in the M16 and its semi-automatic AR15 variants is virtually identical to the .223 Remington round used to hunt varmints such as coyotes and prairie dogs. The 7.62x39 round used in the AK-47 and its semi-automatic variants is slightly less powerful than the .30-30 Winchester, which itself is far from a powerhouse. As semi-automatics – meaning they fire only one round per pull of the trigger – they allow for a quick follow-up shot. Many of them, especially the AR15-type rifles, are as or more accurate than traditional bolt-action hunting rifles.
Last, there are millions of legally owned assault weapons in America, and on July 20 only one of them was used by a murderer to take 12 lives and injure scores more. I own an assault weapon – an AR15 – and I will not be categorized as a criminal or nut job because I own a rifle that's fun to shoot and is similar to the M16 I carried for the 12 years I spent as a soldier. I will not be told I can't own something that in and of itself can harm no one. I'm in the NRA, and I vote!