The following are excerpts from the South Portlander, a daily blog by Current South Portland reporter Linda Hersey. Find it at www.southportlander.com:

(Posted Sept. 7)

The South Portland City Clerk’s Office is encouraging residents to register to vote now, and to consider voting early by absentee ballot, to avoid long lines and congestion on voting day. Large turnouts are expected in Maine and across the nation.

Here are a few steps SoPo residents can take to ensure that everyone who wants to vote is able to in a timely and efficient manner:

If you’re a new resident or first-time voter, now is the time to register. Just stop in at the City Clerk’s Office on the first floor of City Hall, which is across the street from Hannaford on Cottage Road.

If you’ve moved or changed your name, the new information needs to be reflected on voting records. Head to City Hall to get that done.

Consider absentee voting. Request an absentee ballot online. You also can drop in at City Hall, where voting booths soon will be set up. Early voting is expected to start Sept. 23, but check with the City Clerk’s Office. You also can ask the City Clerk to mail a ballot to your home. Residents can absentee vote up until the Friday that precedes the presidential election on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

(Posted Sept. 4)

Artascope Studios sets fall sale

Artascope Studios has a message for SoPo residents, including early bird holiday shoppers: Buy local.

The Cottage Road studio will hold an end-of-summer, outdoor sale on Saturday, Sept. 13, offering a variety of crafts and handmade items that include jewelry, fiber arts, paintings, collages, batik and greeting cards. The sale is from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 352 Cottage Road, near the Cape Elizabeth line. (The rain date is Sunday, Sept. 14.)

The arts and crafts were made by the teachers and students who work at the studio. This is the first time that the three-year-old studio has held a community sale.

More than 20 artists will be represented at the sale. They include full-time working artists and first-timers who are new to showing their work. “Part of the reason for the sale is to give everyone an opportunity to get their products out and get some feedback,” said Catherine Bickford, who directs Artascope, a community collaborative.

Bickford said she considers Artascope a public resource that “everyone can benefit from. People are sharing and working together.”

The building-a rehabbed two-story house-also will be open for tours during the show and sale. Artascope consists of five separate studios that focus on various media: glass, metals, paper, painting and fiber arts.

Land trust to sponsor candidates’ forum

The South Portland Land Trust plans to sponsor a forum on Oct. 1 for candidates seeking election to the City Council. Residents will decide three open seats – in Districts 1, 2 and 5 – when they head to the polls in November. This is the first time that the private, nonprofit trust is sponsoring a candidates’ forum.

The 90-minute televised forum, which will be open to the public, is expected to take place at 7 p.m. in the Council chambers.

Members of the audience will have a chance to query the candidates, after a moderator poses questions submitted by several organizations. The candidates will not get a chance to review the submitted questions in advance of the forum, said Councilor Tom Blake, a founder and member of the land trust.

The land trust is inviting four groups to submit a single question each. They are: the city’s Conservation Commission, Green South Portland (formerly Cool South Portland), Portland Pipeline and the South Portland Dog Owners Group (DOG). The land trust also will ask two questions.

The remainder of the questions will come from audience members. Each candidate will have three minutes to make opening remarks. Jamie Schwartz, a Portland attorney and land trust member, will moderate.

The land trust will hold its annual meeting immediately following the forum, which ends at 8:30 p.m.

(Posted Sept. 3)

Councilor Loring presses for beach group’s findings

The whirlwind City Council meeting Wednesday night was absent of rancor-until the final two minutes.

After the seven members breezed through a brief agenda, outgoing Councilor Kay Loring used the closing round robin session to ask Councilors Claude Morgan and Jim Hughes when the Willard Beach task force would make recommendations on pet access at the city’s popular beach.

“When is the task force coming back on the dog issue?” asked Loring. Morgan and Hughes co-chair the committee of residents and city staff.

Morgan indicated that there is “no terminus,” or deadline, at this point. Hughes said: “Two more meetings.”

Loring pressed on: “I didn’t think it would take this long… I would like to see you come back as soon as possible; you have had time enough.”

The committee is charged with making recommendations on pet access, but a quick look at the minutes of the task force shows that the group hardly is speaking with one voice. Most recently, the task force could not reach consensus on whether there may be a health risk to children who play on the beach after dogs are walked there in the morning.

There also was dissent at Wednesday’s meeting about when the task force should finish its work.

Mayor Jim Soule interjected that he “did not give a time frame, other than when the work is done… I don’t think we should have any project done without a terminus of completion.”

Loring was not to be dissuaded. “I disagree,” she said.

If the task force makes a recommendation this fall, it may be issued close to city elections-when Hughes is up for re-election.

Several members of the Dog Owners Group (DOG), which has lobbied to keep beach access for pets, have stated publicly they will vote for the candidates who support their position and withhold their votes for candidates who don’t.


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