The two candidates for South Portland City Council’s District 3 seat agree that compromise is needed  to solve polarizing local issues, but they differ in their take on residents’ claims of feeling unwelcome to speak up at council meetings

Voters will decide Nov. 2 between incumbent Mayor Misha Pride and challenger Richard Matthews, a member of the South Portland School Board.  District 3 includes parts of Pleasantdale and Stanwood Park and extends to the east nearly to Brown School on Highland Avenue.

One of the most recent polarizing issues in South Portland is dog leash laws, where dog owners and non-dog owners have argued over rights to Willard Beach and Hinckley Park.

“I think what’s difficult, about the dog issue in particular, is that suggested compromises oftentimes are not acceptable once they’re put into action,” Pride said.

Dog owners who said they would support on-leash hours at the city’s open spaces came out against a council proposal to do just that, he said.

The creation of the Dogs & Sharing Public Spaces Advisory Committee is the right way forward, he said, because committees are a great tool in solving polarizing issues.

“I think that’s where South Portland is really special,” he said “Our committees work very hard.”

Matthews also believes that compromise is necessary when addressing the dog issue.

“Everybody’s got to give and take in these kinds of situations,” he said. “Generally, my experience has been to always work toward compromise instead of trying to win.”

An article in the Portland Press Herald this summer reported that the conservative minority in South Portland is often fearful to voice their opinions at council meetings, fearing ridicule from their fellow residents and that the council is already locked in a progressive viewpoint.

Matthews sees where these complaints are coming from.

“I know there’s a lot of disgruntled people who are afraid to voice their opinion because they’re going to be shot down,” he said. “Politics have become tough in this area recently.”

It’s never good for a governmental body to be one-sided, he said, adding that being “part-minded” and thinking in only “one way” can be detrimental.

“I want to be that person who can look at both sides, I want to see from both sides and I want to give an opinion from both sides,” said Matthews.

Pride insists that everyone is welcome at council meetings.

“If you came to a council meeting and sat through and listened to everything that everyone was saying to us, I don’t think you’d agree that people who have dissenting opinions are not allowed to talk,” he said.

He emphasized that he never wants anyone to feel unwelcome at council meetings and encourages residents to turn out to voice their concerns.

“I am the progressive candidate in this race, and most of South Portland is progressive,” said Pride. But he is open to other points of view and takes all of his constituents’ suggestions “to heart.”

Election Day in South Portland is Nov. 2. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. For a complete list of polling locations, visit the Polling Locations page on the southportland.org website.

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