Letters from 2007

November 27, 2007

I am writing to register my adoration for Elizabeth Peavey’s column [see Outta My Yard, “Lady Lazarus,” Nov. 5, 2007]. As someone who has never written (or read) a blog, and generally avoids the blogosphere like the plague, I am writing to thank Elizabeth for re-entering the fray with her column. The difference between a column that-just-happens-to-be-online and a blog is that columnists can write. (We definitely need more writers, fewer bloggers.) That the column happens to be found in Maine’s best newspaper is just gravy. Thank you and please do not despair again! 

Sarah Standiford


November 7, 2007

Aftermelt II
Since the “MHNO Meltdown” [News Briefs, Oct. 15] has generated interest in The Bollard, I’d like to weigh in, since my article was at the core of it.  

As The Bollard accurately reported, the July ’07 issue of the Munjoy Hill Observer carried an article of mine that focused on the denial of the state’s application for a permit to place its probation and parole office on Washington Avenue – here on the Hill.

When I saw my article in print in the July issue, I was stunned and horrified. That was how I learned that Heather Curtis, the editor, had inserted a possibly slanderous paragraph near the beginning of my article. To a reader, it appeared that I had in fact written the offensive paragraph myself about someone I had quoted in my article. There was no indication that the paragraph was an “editor’s comment” and not written by me. 

When I recovered from the shock, I felt compelled to explain to people, especially Chris Bruni, that in fact I hadn’t written that paragraph and would never utilize such sleazy and unethical practices in my writing. I’ve never received an apology from Curtis, and as far as I know, she still maintains that she “did nothing wrong.”

Upon inquiry, I was told by Curtis that my article was “slanted” and needed to be edited to be “fair and balanced.” You mean as in Fox News?!

In fact, this was the second time that Curtis had inappropriately tampered with an article of mine – on the same subject – with no advance notice.

The above is only a small sampling of the communications between Curtis and me. Beginning last year, I received e-mails that were vulgar, included accusations that I was a “legal risk” to write for the Observer, and should step down. Some of her other e-mails, starting last fall, demonstrated her obfuscation of the truth and other “behaviors not appropriate for a public, volunteer-based, neighborhood organization,” as former MHNO president Colleen Bedard and former vice president Marcos Miller termed it in their joint letter of resignation. 

Thank you, Chris, for your interest in the subject and for allowing this former, longtime writer for the Observer to fill in missing facts as the story has been told to date. I say “former” because it is clearly too risky to write for editors who allow their personal agendas to overshadow good common sense and put many others at “legal risk” in pursuit of these agendas. No wonder five MHNO board members have resigned over this.

Carol McCracken


November 5, 2007

One less Democrat in Portland
Thank you, thank you Kirk Goodhue. Your elegant and powerful piece on the current City Council fiasco has compelled me, and perhaps others, to finally shed the measly cloak of party affiliation, and to re-register as an independent. The offending signs, for which someone named Anthony Buxton is apparently responsible, represent a terrible attack upon the ordinarily amicable fabric of our civic discussion. Independent thought, not party affiliation, must be the basis of enlightened self-government. The king is dead.

Andrew Braceras 


October 18, 2007

I am writing in response to your article “Munjoy Hill meltdown.” It was a little one sided, in my opinion. Much of what has been happening inside the organization has been based on difference of opinion about what it looks like to be a member of a board. A few of us on the MHNO Board of Directors recognize that the community voted us onto the board to work together for the community. To me that means that we get together, hash issues out, vote on them, and then move on that vote. To some others that were on the board it apparently meant to get together, vote, then move on to do whatever they wanted and garner support after the fact.

Throughout my three-plus years on the board I have not done many things that I have wanted to do, because the board has voted against them. That’s the way it goes when you work in a team. You voice your individual opinion during discussion, and work as a team after the vote has been taken.

Since the resignation of the few members of the board who decided that the process was too difficult for them, the story has slid further and further from what had actually happened. I invite any and all who want to, to come to the MHNO and view official MHNO documents timelining what has taken place.

As an unfortunate sidebar, many members have been contacted by mail and e-mail, without the consent of the MHNO Board. Past board members misusing our membership lists for unapproved, non-organization communication is unfortunate, and I apologize. We have tried to retrieve the lists, but these past members have refused to return them and not use them for their own personal, and (yes) political, agendas.

It is unfortunate that the members who have resigned from the board chose to do so instead of staying and standing for what their beliefs are. I hope our membership rests assured that those of us who have chosen to stay and represent them have no such intentions.

We welcome the community to join us in being a voice for the neighborhood, to serve on the board of the MHNO, and speak out for our diverse neighborhood, as our mission statement declares.

Randee Bucknell 


May 29, 2007

If you want piss you’ve got it 
If the Skinny dies, then Portland is dead [see “Arts venue struggles to reopen in Arts District,” News, May 29]. Having within the past year or so lost The Alehouse, Acoustic Coffee, Chicky’s Fine Diner, and the State Theatre, one can only hack it so long in a retirement home without turning to the heavy drink. I recently received notice from the White Heart that musicians can no longer be employed during the week, as condo owners (who moved in above an already operating bar!) have complained about noise. I am of course delighted we’re spending all the money to attract MORE cruise ships than EVER before to our lovely retirement home.

If Messrs. Carson and Pachios are afraid of a little urine, they should be careful what they wish for. They will certainly get much less from the Skinny crowd than they’ll see once all the artists have nothing left but booze. Once we are priced and zoned out of homes, venues, and soul, I’m coming for you with a big purple spray gun and some buckets of piss.
Frank W. Hopkins


May 23, 2007

Rough skating
Thanks for your excellent coverage of the travails of the skate park for our youth. I find the comments of councilors to be a bit perplexing. I will dissect some of them. Also, you have one sort of error which I will note.

Carr could not be reached for comment, but Councilor Ed Suslovic, a member of the committee, said soil testing is being done at an alternative site at Back Cove, on athletic fields not far from where the interstate passes over Preble Street Extension. 

If soil issues were going to determine the location, the Dougherty Field location is the last place we would put a skate park. It is on top of a former city dump. Typical of Portland to spend money on something like soil testing that’s so unnecessary, just to please a councilor’s campaign to defeat a committee’s recommendation that they do not agree with. 

Suslovic said the Back Cove site seems preferable to Dougherty Field because it’s “served directly by public transit,” is close to the Hannaford supermarket and other food outlets, and has “more visibility” than the Dougherty Field courts. 

What is scary about this statement is that Ed Suslovic sits on the Metro Board. First part is that he does not know the Portland bus routing. The Dougherty Field site has THREE buses that pass by it. The #5 runs seven days a week, the #3 runs six days a week and the #1 provides coverage on Sundays. The Preble Street site has the infamous #8 Peninsula Loop bus that goes everywhere and nowhere and does not run on Sunday.

I suspect Anania’s and the other Congress Street food outlets would love the skate park constituents’ business.

The school department’s West School Program for students with behavioral and emotional challenges is administered in a building adjacent to Dougherty Field. One of the options before the 3×3 Committee is to build a new elementary school where the field complex and West School’s building sit.

This is incorrect. The architect has recently recommended closing the West School building and demolishing it. They are recommending using the top end of the site (where the Kiwanis Pool sits) for a new school. The middle of the site was a brick factory and has hazardous-waste issues (apparently 100-year-old bricks are considered hazardous waste), and the bottom part of the site where the tennis courts sit was a city dump. The West School building pad would make a good place to put the skate park, but that would probably be too easy and save the project money.

My gut tells me if we even build a new school, it is not going to be at this site.

Steven Scharf 


April 27, 2007

On deadline 
On Feb. 22, 2007, responses to the Request For Proposals for developing the Maine State Pier were due to be turned in at Portland City Hall. Only two developers, The Olympia Companies and Ocean Properties, presented plans. 
It was understood that the plan eventually chosen would not be built as originally drawn up.  It would be massaged by the developer, city staff, and then through public input before construction would begin.
What is at issue is the commitment shown by each developer in the preparation of their proposals.  What research did they undertake?  Did they show an understanding of the site and what the citizens of Portland have long said they wanted and didn’t want on the site?  Did they show a commitment to the project, and is that commitment evident in the work submitted on Feb. 22?
Clearly, only one developer made that commitment – The Olympia Companies.
Ocean Properties’ designs showed big, boxy buildings blocking most all views from the Commercial Street-Franklin Street corridors. Ocean Properties placed a parking garage directly at the entrance to Casco Bay Lines, adding 300 cars to a mix that is already overloaded with vehicular traffic.  Then, Ocean Properties placed surface parking for 70 or 80 cars on the pier – over the water itself.

Anyone who spends any time on the pier knows that having cars filling up 70 spaces, with additional cars driving into the area to see if there are spaces available, is about as bad of a plan as can be conceived.  To strengthen the notion that the plan has a lot of open space, the Ocean Properties developers refer to their surface parking areas as open space, or “multi-use” space.  Sitting and relaxing on an-oil stained, striped parking lot is not anyone’s idea of a way to enjoy an “open space”.
Ocean Properties’ originally submitted plan had virtually no green space easily available to the public. 
Then, upon seeing the proposal submitted by The Olympia Companies, Ocean Properties pulled its plan from its Web site, and has been altering it ever since.  There are no less than five versions out there. Ocean Properties’ claim is that it is showing that it can be responsive to input. 
The problem is this.  In a letter to a number of Portland citizens from Ocean Properties  representatives Robert Baldacci and Peter O’Donnell, dated April 23, 2007, they wrote: “We are proud to say that we met with more than 80 people BEFORE we submitted our proposal to the city …”  They say in the same letter that, “By listening to and considering the points of view of hundreds of people… Ocean Properties has demonstrated its commitment to delivering the very best plan for Portland.”
So, if after meeting with more than 80 people and consulting with hundreds, Ocean Properties delivers a plan that is first pulled from view then changed many times over, it seems that points to a lack of ability to understand both the site and what the people of Portland want for it. We don’t need a developer who doesn’t get it.
It just makes sense that since either developer would be making changes to the plan to some degree, Portland should go with the company that clearly demonstrated a commitment to understanding the site and the desires of Portlanders on the Feb. 22 deadline – The Olympia Companies.
Kirk Goodhue

[Disclosure: Goodhue was a member of the group of citizens The Olympia Companies convened to provide input on their design for the pier.]


April 11, 2007

Gay, green, gorgeous and aghast
What the h**l is going on up there?  Has Portland sold out to prudish aging baby-boomers? The Portland Press Herald continues to wag its paternal finger at the citizenry of Portland with its crystal clear message – in order to be an elected official, you have to be:
– two standard deviations to the right of privileged
–  a pal of Bill Nemitz
– free of all actual and perceived sin
While the city continues passing policy to condemn fun, to dissuade dog gatherings as well as gathering for late night hotdogs, and to allow its two large high schools to continue to be run like Sputnik-era institutions that behave like sorting machines, the city’s major print media conducts witchhunts to preserve static one-party political machines.  This comes at a time when progress is in demand. I wonder just how much the Portland Press Herald is a factor in the city’s exodus of youth and the state’s brain drain? Reading it online from afar would lead one to think they were reading the Topeka Times. I sure hope aware folks who are thinking of settling in Portland find their way to The Bollard or theWest End News!!
Hey O’Brien, how goes it with progressive advocacy for Parkside and the West End? If I open up the PPH and see that you ushered in a classist and racist weighted grades policy, you can forget about being my Prom date. I’m hanging in Austin for a couple years and am fixin’ to be back in town when the stint is done, hopefully in time for the 2009 city elections.
Keeping it real,

Stephen Spring
Austin, TX


April 11, 2007

Perry parries Shields
I appreciate the opportunity provided by The Bollard cartoonist Martin Shields to elaborate on my thoughts from my March 15th letter in which I shared my displeasure of his February 22nd Bollardhead cartoon.

What I specifically found offensive about this installment of the Bollardhead is its representation of the stereotypical belief that women who work to end violence are vindictive and hate all men. The cartoon also promotes the backlash that feminists receive from men (individual men and men as a collective group) when men are asked to recognize and help eliminate the gender inequities in our society. The quote “Do you know the woman who gave birth to me was a feminist?” is another common tool used by men to minimize their sexist beliefs and the social power they posses. It is the classic way that individual men collude and distance themselves from the injustices and violence that are perpetuated by the sexist institutions and systems that are ever present in our current culture. It is as offensive as when a white person tries to remove themselves from acknowledging racism by saying, “I am not racist, some of my best friends are black!”

I offer the link to the March 22, 2001 Portland Phoenix archived stories so Shields can reacquaint himself with how the community reacted six years ago to his misogynistic artwork and to remember his own sexist spin on his choices. I also want to outline why I do not think referring to this piece was obscure but rather to highlight a continuum of Shields’ sexist beliefs/choices and how our community responded to them. One of Shields’ comments in the article was “‘Maybe I could have gotten a reaction from people by doing something different than a woman being cut up and boiled. It’s just I felt like it was an easy way to get people all riled up.” Shields harbors no regrets, saying, “I’m satisfied. I don’t feel bad about it.” 

It is obvious that he did not feel bad then and I have no doubt that he does not recognize his ignorance now. The goal of this letter is not necessarily to change Shields’ mind, but to let him know that he will be questioned and held accountable when he chooses to share his oppressive views publicly.

Matthew I. Perry
South Portland


March 21, 2007

Schools, not schemes 
Are the people of Portland foolish enough to fall for this real estate deal shrouded in a library scheme? [See “Council sends library plan to voters.”] Let’s hope not, because there is no question in my mind that we will end up paying through the nose when the true costs are revealed for the renovations required for the former Public Market. What if the new owner of the library won’t rent the basement back for $1.00 per year? Then what? I wonder who the buyer is that they have obviously already lined up for the current library without telling us? They won’t reveal the appraised value, but they already know that the new buyer will rent the basement  back for $1.00/year? If you sold your house to someone, would they rent the basement or garage back to you for $1.00/year? Obviously not. Why should we bail Guggenheim out of the ownership of this dog building, and put it on the backs of the taxpayers? Let them sell it on their own, or demolish it and put up something appropriate.
When did the Public Market become such a vaulted example of public architecture? When I told someone how unattractive I thought the building was, they told me that’s because the building had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wrong. Imagine the heating bills for a building that is substantially glass, especially in an age of rapidly rising energy costs. Where will the additional money come from? Right out of the school budget, the same place that funds all of the screw-ups made by the city. The over $500,000 dollars spent on the Scotia Prince lawsuits? Right out of the school budget. Every other departmental overrun? Right out of the school budget. There is no money to renovate our elementary schools, but there is always money for every half-wit project proposed by Jeff Monroe. Like I tell people, if Jim Cloutier could get the Public Works Department to dig the trenches behind our elementary schools, he would gladly offer to operate the machine gun for free to solve our public school funding problems.
I can only hope that the people of Portland come to their senses by June 12th and vote NO on this insane proposal. 

Let’s not make any more BIW drydock mistakes again!
Mark Usinger 


March 15, 2007

Bollardhead sexist  
Let me get to the point. I find Martin Shields’ February 22nd cartoon of the Bollardhead offensive. Shields has a history of finding men’s violence against women funny and as a strong proponent of sexism (seePortland Phoenix March 22, 2001).  Shields proclaims that he does this just so his artwork gets noticed and he sees nothing wrong with his images or its reinforcement of our culture’s current violent messages against women and girls. I found his artwork offensive 6 years ago and I still find his take tasteless today. I wanted to share my opinion so that you do not fool yourself into thinking that no one cares or notices.
Matthew I. Perry
South Portland
Martin Shields responds: I’d like to thank Mr. Perry for sharing his honest feelings about my cartoons with the readers of The Bollard. I wish he had specified what exactly he found offensive about my February 22nd cartoon, however. He also ought to explain what he found offensive about my cartoons in Casco Bay Weekly from April of 2001 that he makes an obscure reference to by mentioning an excerpt from an interview Noah Bruce did with me and printed in the Phoenix in March of the same year. I am disappointed he assumes I find violence against women funny, since I do not. I do think that outrageous cartoon violence can be funny and entertaining. I hope I don’t have to educate Mr. Perry on the difference between cartoon violence and violence in real life, since he sounds like the type of tow-headed feminist who is so pathetically divorced from reality that we might get into a debate over whether cartoons construct events in life or whether life constructs events in cartoons.


February 22, 2007

Down with Quimbyism
I made up my mind a few years ago that I would never again write a letter to the editor. No many how many times I would find something appalling about living in this city, I would bite my tongue and remain silent.

But the news that Roxanne Quimby has bought the building that houses A Company of Girls and will evict them this spring is too outrageous for me to remain quiet. [See “Girls vs. Bees,” Gossip, March 1.]

A Company of Girls is a nationally recognized non-profit arts program. Odelle Bowman has done wonderful work nurturing this program that works with at-risk adolescent girls in East Bayside. She and A Company of Girls deserve better treatment.

This is another example of displacement of an arts program from a community that prides itself on being attractive to the arts. The displacement of the People’s Free Space is also unfortunate.

Yes, I know Ms. Quimby likes to fix up old buildings and it’s her money to do with what she pleases, but it is still a contemptible selfish act of “liberal do goodism.”

I hope our city councilors will do more than wring their hands over this and be proactive in helping to secure working space in our community for A Company of Girls.

Harlan Baker


January 19, 2007

$15 my square foot!
Good news from Mr. McGoldrick on rents returning to $15 per square foot [see “Formula biz limits a factor in big Old Port property sales?” Gossip, Jan. 18]. That would mean I could afford more staff, which means better customer service for my clients. I could spend more time off the floor designing and researching fabric, which would mean better products for my customers. I could spend a little more on promotion, which would bring in more customers to my shop and the area.

So many of the businesses that have been priced out of the Old Port would be able to locate here that empty storefronts would be filled. The lowering of rents would certainly be somewhat offset by a fully occupied Old Port and Arts District.

Nancy Lawrence
owner, Portmanteau

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