April 23, 2006
Caron and Frost run again; rocker takes on Adams?; Peace Guy takes on Governor
Former Portland Planning Board chairman Jaimey Caron has announced he’s making another run for an at-large seat on the school board. Caron narrowly lost a three-way race for an at-large seat (one of four representing the whole city) last year, falling a few percentages behind Susan Hopkins.
Past school board member Frances Frost also ran and lost in that race, but The Bollard learned last Friday that she intends to seek the seat representing District 1 on the School Committee (the East End, downtown and islands), a post she held for one three-year term in the mid-1990’s. Current District 1 school board representative Otis Thompson is not seeking a third term this year, he confirmed Friday. Environmental educator Rebecca Minnick, co-chair of the Portland Green Independent Party, intends to run for that seat, she confirmed today.
The at-large seat Caron is seeking is currently held by Jonathan Radtke, who is not running again this year. This weekend, another candidate for this seat came forward: Kevin Gardella.
Gardella, 28, is an artist who works at a senior living facility in the West End. A registered Green Independent making his first run for office, Gardella said he intends to adopt the campaign finance pledge taken by two other Greens seeking city office this year: Kevin Donoghue and Dave Marshall. The candidates say this will accept no contributions over $100 (the current legal limit is $250) and no money from sources outside the city of Portland. (See “Greens come out swinging in City Council races.”)
In other political news, it’s come to light that the Green Independent Party challenger in the race for the State House seat representing Bayside and Parkside is none other than Jason Rogers, the local indie rocker whose band, Diamond Sharp, released one of last year’s catchiest albums.
That House seat is currently held by veteran legislator Herb Adams, who is running again this year. Jason LaVoie, a leader of the University of Southern Maine’s College Republican group, is also in this race.
Luckily for Adams, Lavoie’s chances for victory are slim in this liberal district, and Rogers is not actually running a campaign. Local Green Party officials say Rogers is just holding the party’s place on the ballot until a replacement candidate can be found.
And speaking of long-shots, Shawn Loura, a.k.a. The Monument Square Peace Guy, is running for governor. Among his platform positions: close the Preble Street Resource Center’s homeless shelter (it’s unconstitutional, Loura says), eliminate the income and property tax in favor of a consumption-based sales tax, privatize public schools, and promote family values. (For more on Loura, read our interview with him here.)
April 20, 2006
Council lets drunk driver run city-owned bar
During its April 19 meeting, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to give Edward “Ted” Everest a license to serve beer, wine and liquor at the city-owned Riverside Golf Course restaurant and bar. Everest was hand-picked by city officials to take over management of the bar and restaurant, called The Eagles Nest, after the previous manager took legal action against the city, claiming her lease to run The Eagles Nest was unfairly terminated. (See “Ex-Riverside Golf restaurant manager sues city,” April 2, 2006).
Everest got the nod despite a recent conviction for drunk driving in Portland. Councilors have berated past liquor license applicants over similar infractions, but made no mention of Everest’s alcohol-related crime during their meeting.
The restaurant’s past manager, Kathleen Joyce, alleged that state liquor laws are being violated on the course, and said her attempts to enforce those laws led to friction with city employees and officials. Among the violations being alleged is the claim that golfers are drinking on the course, where alcohol consumption is prohibited.
In response to a question about that allegation by Councilor Ed Suslovic, city Parks and Recreation Department Director Denise Clavette said “we’ll be looking into that.”
April 14, 2006
Blue Bag Blues
It could become more than twice as expensive to generate trash in Portland if the City Council approves a proposal to more than double the price of city trash bags. A pack of ten 15-gallon bags or five 30-gallon bags now costs $4.75. The proposal would raise that to $10 for either size package. The price hike would take effect Sept. 1.
City Manager Joe Gray included those price increases in his new budget proposal, which the council will formally consider early next month. The price increases are intended to help defray the cost of several major, new recycling initiatives.
Among them is the expansion of trash, recycling and Heavy Item Pickup services to about 8,000 condominiums and apartments in large, multi-unit buildings that did not previously get these city services. The implementation of a free, year-round hazardous material drop-off program is another new initiative being considered.
The proposal also covers costs associated with Regional Waste Systems’ implementation of single-stream recycling at the start of next year. The board of the regional trash and recycling operation is moving forward with plans to make this change, though details – such as what company will handle the work – are still being developed.
Once that process is in place, trash will no longer need to be separated in the blue city recycling bins. The city would purchase five new recycling trucks that can compact unseparated recyclables, cutting down on travel time and making the recycling process up to 30 percent more efficient, said City Councilor and RWS board member Jim Cloutier. That change would also involve hiring two additional public works employees.
All told, the new recycling initiatives would cost an additional $2.8 million, but in budget documents Gray said this cost increase can be covered by the bag price hike.
A city finance department official said residents will soon receive notice of the proposed increase, and will be invited to share their thoughts with the council’s Finance Committee before the full council considers the increase.
Some city councilors are wary of introducing this new program, with its attendant price hikes, this year. City Councilor Will Gorham noted that property owners are facing the second part of a two-phase property tax revaluation this year, and the property tax rate could rise due to other city and school budget increases this year.
“It’s not good timing,” Gorham said of the bag price hike. “That may go away. We can hold off for another year.”
April 12, 2006
The union representing editors, news producers and other behind-the-scenes staff at local CBS television affiliate WGME 13 has struck a favorable contract deal with station owner Sinclair Broadcasting Group, Inc. Members of local IBEW 1837 began demonstrating against the national media giant last December, claiming Sinclair was trying to bust their union and cut their pay by raising their share of insurance costs. [For more on this story, see the first item in last year’s Briefs by clicking the link at the bottom of this window.]
In a press release sent today by union shop steward Matt Beck, Beck said the union’s new three-year contract includes annual pay raises and retroactive pay going back to December of 2004. He said it also includes “strong union security language” for the IBEW local’s 50 workers.
Things haven’t been going smoothly at WGME since the union strife began. As reported in the Portland Press Herald, the station has lost investigative reporter Crystal Canney, meteorologist Mark Rosenthal, and general manager Alan Cartwright in recent months. In January, news anchor Doug Rafferty suffered a mild stroke (he has since returned).
Beck had said the union representing on-air talent like Rafferty and Canney was in support of Local 1837, though their contract prevented them from joining the picket lines. Sinclair executive and smarmy conservative commentator Mark Hyman (“The Point”) is assumed not to be among the on-air talent sympathetic to the union’s demands.
March 28, 2006
The legal dispute between Alehouse owner Russ Riseman and his landlord, Eric Cianchette, took another bad turn earlier this month.
Riseman is still defending his rock club against a lawsuit over alleged noise issues brought by the Cianchette-owned Portland Regency Hotel across Market Street. On March 14, Riseman filed his own suit against Cianchette, who also owns the building the Alehouse leases. This suit alleges that Cianchette’s management company, ELC, is not acting quickly enough to install a sprinkler system in the building.
On Feb. 9, according to a press release from Riseman’s lawyer, Dan Skolnik, the State Fire Marshall’s Office informed The Alehouse that it needs such a system to comply with the fire code. Skolnik said the fire protection companies contacted by Riseman all said they would install nothing short of an expensive, building-wide system.
The Alehouse only occupies part of the building it leases, and Skolnik said installing a building-wide sprinkler system is beyond the scope of the club’s lease. If ELC does not install the system, Riseman fears state fire officials will shut his club down for safety reasons. “The nightclub cannot run the risk that ELC’s stratagem of delaying and obstructing compliance with the state fire code will result in an injunction shutting The Alehouse down,” Skolnik wrote.
ELC’s attorney, David Perkins, said the management company is “looking into it, trying to figure out whose responsibility it is” to install the sprinklers.
Perkins said The Alehouse is operating as a rock club in contradiction to the terms of its lease with ELC, which states the establishment will be a restaurant and lounge. If the sprinkler system is required because The Alehouse is a live music venue, rather than a restaurant with a bar, “they should take care of their own thing,” he said.
The Alehouse is about five years into its 10-year lease, and Skolnik counters that after five years operating as a rock club, the music venue has established that use as a legitimate one.
Meanwhile, negotiations over the Regency noise-complaint lawsuit continue.
“Tenant-landlord relationships are like marriage,” said Perkins, sounding a bit weary over all the legal wrangling. “Sometimes they have ups and downs.”
March 21, 2006
Last Old Port booze license awarded
With no debate, and by a unanimous vote, the Portland City Council granted Chris Diaz the last Old Port Overlay License for Legends, a bar and dance club he plans to open in the space last occupied by Players (see item below). In brief remarks to the council, Diaz pledged that Legends will be a model for other Old Port bars to emulate. His landlord, Joe Soley, told councilors he has faith in Diaz’s ability to run a safe and reputable establishment given the young bar owner’s military background.
Given that the Old Port resembles a war zone on weekend nights, Soley’s probably right.
In the future, anyone wishing to open a drinking establishment in the tourist district will either have to wait for one of the bars currently holding an Overlay license to close, or ask the council to make an exception and award a 25th Overlay license. Councilors have indicated a willingness to make such an exception, but that discussion was about the possibility that a swanky bar in the yet-to-be-built Westin hotel and condo complex on Franklin Arterial will need the special permit. Would-be meat markets would likely face an uphill battle.
March 14, 2006
Players to Legends?
A new nightclub owner is seeking the city’s last Old Port Overlay License. Chris Diaz, a 33-year-old Coast Guardsman from Naples, has applied to open a bar called Legends in the subterranean space last occupied by Players, at the corner of Fore and Exchange streets. The building’s owner is Joe Soley, a landlord with a long history in the district marked by conflicts with city officials and tenants.
In his license application, Diaz said Legends will have DJs on Wednesday through Saturday nights, pool tables and darts, and offer hot dogs, Hot Pockets, wings, pizza and other grub in addition to alcohol. The City Council will consider his application at its March 20 meeting.
Editor’s note: The Bollard had previously reported that the last Old Port Overlay License was taken by The Tree last month. But according to city business license administrator Amanda Berube, there is still one special Old Port license available. Bull Feeney’s, the pub on Fore Street, has not gotten an Overlay License, contrary to our previous report. We regret the error.
March 7, 2006
State Theatre update: Judge denies request to stop eviction
A Cumberland County District Court judge has denied a motion filed by State Theatre manager Chris Morgan to halt his eviction. Morgan, the New Hampshire concert promoter whose company, Maine Entertainment, had been running the venue since last summer, filed a motion with the court on Feb. 28 seeking to stop an eviction order by Stone Coast Properties.
In court documents, Morgan said he needed time to hire a lawyer. He apparently had not sought legal advice in the months leading up to the March 1 eviction date because, he wrote, he had been “led to believe by [Stone Coast] that good faith negotiations would take place and counsel would not be needed.”
At a Feb. 9 hearing before the judge, E. Paul Eggert, Eggert had given the parties until March 1 to negotiate a solution to the dispute, but Morgan asserts in his filing that no negotiations took place. Morgan also asserts that he can prove “fraud and misrepresentation” on Stone Coast’s part, but Eggert ruled that Morgan’s claims do not meet the legal requirements necessary to halt the eviction.
Last month, Morgan told The Bollard “there is another, very real side to the story” of his struggles with Stone Coast and Grant Wilson, who owns the historic theater in downtown Portland. Morgan did not respond to calls seeking comment after Eggert denied his Feb. 28 request. Wilson has said he will make an announcement about the venue at some future time.
Fnord back in the pokey
Infamous graffiti tagger Eric White (a.k.a. “Fnord”) is back in jail, serving a 90-day sentence for theft.
Police say White, 22, shoplifted several packages of meat from the Save A Lot grocery store on St. John Street the night of February 21. Confronted by the store manager, police say White assaulted the man, then fled the scene. The manager, who was “grabbed and pushed” in the altercation, was not injured, according to Portland Police Lt. Vern Malloch.
White was later located at Pizza Villa, a bar and restaurant nearby on Congress Street, where he was arrested. The meat was returned to the store.
Just four days earlier, a Cumberland County Superior Court Judge had ordered White to pay $150 in restitution for a graffiti spree last fall – a crime for which he spent 84 days in jail. The District Attorney’s Office had originally been seeking several thousand dollars in damages.
Blue Room with a view
A new, free, monthly publication has hit the streets of Greater Portland. CalledThe Blue Room, the upstart project is “a hybrid of contemporary journalism and traditional documentary work… geared toward today’s fast-paced, visual world,” according to an introductory note by publisher Tim Greenway.
The Blue Room‘s 12-page, black-and-white, debut issue contains profiles of tin-foil sculptor Robert Wilson, blacksmith Bob Menard, and a pair of local shamans. The approach will be recognizable to anyone familiar with Salt Magazine and other publications of the Salt Institute for Documentary Field Studies, and that’s no accident. Most of The Blue Room‘s six staff members are graduates of the Portland documentary program, according to Blue Room P.R. director and writer Sherry Whittemore.
Several Blue Room staffers hold day jobs at other local publications. Whittemore is a reporter at The Forecaster, and Greenway and art director Andrew Rice both work for The Community Leader, a free weekly owned by Blethen Maine Newspapers (publishers of the Portland Press Herald) that competes with The Forecaster in the towns north of Portland.
The publication’s Web site address, http://www.blueroomproject.org, may lead readers to believe this is a non-profit enterprise, but Whittemore said the endeavor is technically a for-profit limited liability company, though the LLC is considering becoming a non-profit.
Copies of The Blue Room can be found at shops, markets, eateries and other locations in Portland, South Portland and Falmouth. A full list of locations is posted on the paper’s Web site.