I subscribe to the City of Portland’s “City News Roundup.” Every Friday I receive an email that lists, among other things, volunteer opportunities on city boards and committees. As of last week, residents could apply for any of 21 seats on 11 civic bodies ranging from the Harbor Commission to the Rent Board. The city’s website describes these positions as playing “an important role in Portland’s government.”

It was with dismay, then, that I read Tuesday that many members of the city council are willing to reject – apparently out of hand – recommendations of both the city’s planning and historic preservation boards that the designation of 142 Free St. as a contributing structure to the Congress Street Historic District be maintained.

Should these councilors prevail – which would then allow the demolition of the former Children’s Museum by the Portland Museum of Art – the clear message that they will have sent to these board members is that the time, effort, study and care they expended in reaching their conclusions were in vain. And, to any resident motivated by interest or civic duty to consider applying for membership on one of the boards or commissions that could send a recommendation to the council in the future, this question would be inevitable: Why bother if the councilors don’t listen?

Ellen Murphy

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