Jennings Picks Waterfront Coalition to Address Issues and Avert Referendum Vote

Willis Spears at December 12, 2018 Meeting on the Future of the Waterfront Facilitated by WSP, a Boston consulting firm, hired to Conduct a Survey. PLease visit post herein dated December 12, for more information on the Meeting.

City manager Jon Jennings announced very late this afternoon the members of his new Waterfront Working Group, which will work “intensely” over the next six months to address key issues during the time the non-marine use expansion moratorium is in place for the Waterfront Central Zone, which the Council approved at the December 17, 2018 meeting. In order to come up with a resolution acceptable to the lobstermen, the Group needs to work “intensely” to achieve that end.

The Group is: Willis Spear, Lobsterman; Keith Lane, Lobsterman; Bill Coopersmith, MLU President and Lobsterman. They represent the interests of the Working Waterfront and the fishing industry who say that the overdevelopment of Commercial Street is making accessibility to the waterfront increasingly difficult. This is an industry where quick accessibility is crucial to its business because fish is so perishable.

Those representing business interests at the Group meetings,selected by Jennings, are: Steve DiMillo, Long Wharf owner and DiMillo’s Restaurant and Marina; Mike Alfiero, Holyoke Wharf owner and owner of Harbor Fish Market; Togue Brawn, Downeast Dayboat Scallops owner; Becky Rand, Owner Becky’s Diner; wealthy Cyrus Hagge, who owns a lot of property in the area as well as waterfront property at Cassidy Point, community member; Dory Waxman, former conservative city council and community member.

The Group, along with city staff from various departments, will meet twice a month. Why are there so many more representing business interests on the waterfront than the lobster and fishing industry? Anyone know the answer? How can a fair consensus be reached on such a “lopsided” Group? The Group will meet on the first and third Thursdays at 3:00 pm in Room 24 (basement) of city hall. All meetings are open to the public. Will public comment be taken at these meetings?

This past October, a nine page application for a citizen initiative was filed with the city under the leadership of Orlando Delogu. The amendments proposed by Delogu restored some of the water dependency requirements originally approved by Portland voters back in 1987. Since then, according to Delogu, the ordinance has been amended several times. Delogu is a former City Councilor and retired professor of law at Maine Law, Portland.

In October of 2018 Delogu wrote a paper “Portland’s Working Waterfront – Under Siege Again,” that appeared in Maine Lawyers Review. Last month, allies of the Group began collecting signatures to place the proposed ordinance on a ballot. At the December 12 meeting referred to above, the petition was well on its way to meeting its requirements of 2,500 voters in Portland. The petitions need to be submitted next month to city hall for verification. At the same meeting, Willie Spears said this moratorium will have no effect at all on the referendum.

On October 24, 2017, the three lobstermen, Spears, Lane and Coopersmith, met for about one hour with city manager Jon Jennings and Bill Needleman, waterfront liaison to the Economic Development Office, Greg Mitchell, Director, to express their concerns about the increasing lack of accessibility to the waterfront, traffic and parking issues for the industry. The three emerged from the meeting at city hall optimistic that their concerns had been heard by Jennings and Needleman they told Jennings told the three lobstermen that a survey was to be conducted on the issues as it currently is being done. “He (Jennings) guaranteed us that our needs will be met,” said a smiling Spears. Seeing no progress and tired of Jennings’ empty promises, an application for a citizen initiative was filed with the city clerk as described in the above paragraph in October.

Spears told Jennings and Needleman at the October 24, 2017 meeting that there are four developments in various stages that are causing problems for lobstermen. They are: 58 Fore Street, a/k/a Portland Foreside; 184 Commercial Street; the Propritiors of Union Wharf, Charlie Poole; and the Joe Dasco development of the former Rufus Deering Lumber Co.

“I’d much rather have the moratorium than the referendum,” Commercial Street boat yard owner Phin Sprague, Jr. told this blogger at the December 12, 2018 meeting at the Portland Public Library on the future of the waterfront. The consulting group expects to report back to Portland residents on their analysis in mid-February.

Jennings once worked in the White House, was an original partner in the Thompson’s Point development until he sold his share because the development was going in the “direction” he wanted, was part of the Maine Claws basketball team, and was an assistant city manager for South Portland until he took this position as City Manager for Portland.

Please see post herein in this blog dated October 24, 2017 for more background information on the subject. Contributions in support of the fishing industry may be mailed to: MaineCoastFisherman/Working-Waterfront, 14 Maine Street, Box 40, Brunswick, ME 04011 Google: “Twelve LIttle Wharves” to see a video.