Re: “Newcomers, changing tastes energize Biddeford food scene” (March 7):

Biddeford’s mayor recently compared the task of pushing paid parking plans ahead to “fighting a two-front war.” At the same meeting, Biddeford’s city manager, James Bennett, described some opponents of the plan as “grassy knoll” people. My observation is that this mentality is creating division in a community that needn’t be divided.

Many positive things are happening in Biddeford, and most people feel a rising tide. We’re a community that benefits from a blend of new and old, with a rich history defined by people who came here seeking a better life.

That asset, however, is compromised when the new and old are pitted against each other. This becomes inevitable when conviction about municipal policy is championed with authority instead of advocacy. In a two-front war, a general must seek to divide and then conquer. In a two-front war, collateral damage gets justified. In a two-front war, opponents are demonized and defectors are punished.

This mentality causes more than infighting. It also causes significantly less public participation. We’ve seen this by many measures in Biddeford, including voter participation and attendance at City Council meetings. “Why even bother?” has become a common refrain when it comes to both. The number of people who voted against a form of paid parking in 2014 was more than the aggregate number of voters in the entire 2017 election. I worry that our next municipal election may see even fewer. That is unless the mayor prioritizes public participation.

When our mayor speaks about his vision, his passion is contagious. It encourages our community, new and old, to focus on building our community up – together. It’s my hope this tone will prevail as this process continues. If it does, parking will get worked out and our renaissance will continue. That is, after all, the will of the people.

Matt Lauzon