- Congress Square Park picked up by the New York Times- 2013
- Check out my article featured in Chris Shorr’s BDN Blog!
- Let’s Revitalize Portland’s Parks by Expanding Community Gardens
- Mainers are Ready for a Challenge to “Hawkish” Collins
- Concerned Woman Questions the Legality of Free Speech “Buffer Zones” at Planned Parenthood
Click here to read the article
With the success of the Tuesday, June 11 “Yes on One” vote in Portland, my commitment to improving and expanding public parks has been affirmed. I first understood the need to maintain and utilize our parks during the Occupy Maine movement in Portland in 2011. I remembered when Occupy Maine started hosting “General Assembly” meetings at Congress Square Park in early 2012 when the rumor circulated that the park could be sold to Rockbridge Capital and the Westin.
After Occupy, I decided to run for Portland School Board and was elected to represent district two. To my delight, this year I was appointed onto the “Mayor’s Initiative for Healthy Sustainable Food Systems Committee”. During one recent meeting, it was mentioned that the waiting list for a community garden plot in Portland was about three years long!
While walking through Boston a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon over 500 community garden plots which were originally “Victory Gardens” started during WWII. While no one can deny that our precious parks are neglected and often underutilized, it occurred to me while visiting the Fenway gardens that Portland needs “Victory Gardens” too. Instead of relying upon the City and our dissolved Parks department, we could have our own citizenry growing more food and flowers and spending time with their families in our parks.
Despite the June 11 vote, the future of Congress Square Park is still uncertain. We need stewardship of our parks by the people, and radically expanding our community garden plots and creating “Victory Gardens” is an economical and common sense way to instantly beautify and sustain our community spaces.
As a recent article in “The Nation” suggests, Mainers are ready for a real challenge against Susan Collins as she faces her third reelection (“Senator Collins is the Barrier to Transparency, Accountability on Drones” http://www.thenation.com/blog/177342/senator-susan-collins-barrier-transparency-accountability-drones#).
Two women are vying for a Maine seat in the U.S. Congress, and both have very different opinions about drone warfare. Women in politics are often accused of being “too soft”, and like Susan Collins and Hilary Clinton, decide to take a “hawkish” attitude toward all military actions. Collins has continually voted to keep troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. While Americans are struggling in the “Great Recession”, half of our FY budget is approved for the Pentagon every year.
Holding the seat in Congress since 1997, incumbent Susan Collins has supported several ongoing wars, surveillance of Americans, and drone strikes upon our own people. Collins has continually supported the “Patriot Act”, which goes down as one of the most embarrassing and undemocratic acts passed in US history. More recently, she has come under pressure after she voted against legislation that would require the government to report on the number of civilians killed by drone strikes. For years now, the US has been launching drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries around the world.
While with the ACLU, Shenna Bellows worked to support legislation in Maine that would have banned law enforcement agencies from using drones for surveillance unless they had a search warrant. If Bellows wishes to win the seat from Collins in 2014, her campaign must rail against Collins’ strong support of the Military Industrial Complex. Bellows’ history in the ACLU is in perfect contrast to Collins’ support of never-ending wars and the deaths of innocent children to US drone strikes. Challenging a long-time incumbent can be difficult. To defeat Collins, the Bellows campaign needs look no further than to expose Collins’ unbridled support of all things war.
On Monday, the Portland City council voted to create a 39-foot Free Speech “buffer zone” around Planned Parenthood to prevent protestors from standing outside the door. As a patient, I have entered Planned Parenthood with my heart was stuck in my throat as I passed by protestors with bloody signs. However, I have two questions about creating “buffer zones” in our city. Can this ordinance prevent me from exercising my first amendment right to hold up a sign saying, “I support Planned Parenthood” next to the door, or is this ordinance only for “offensive speech?
My second question: Can other non-profits, organizations, or corporations in Portland now seek protestor boundaries or “free speech zones”? During the height of the Occupy movement, protestors in Portland stood outside Merrill Lynch and Bank of America to call attention to the billions syphoned out of the world’s economies during the 2008 recession. Buffer zones could be used by banks to keep protestors 39-feet away from their doors. This year, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge on the constitutionality of buffer zones around abortion clinics when it takes up McCullen v. Coakley.
picture by Laura Tasheiko
Everywhere you look on the peninsula, our City Council is selling the city of Portland for cheap. Residents are bombarded with the construction of four new hotels, several events centers, and luxury condos at the expense of affordable housing. Affordable housing means an opportunity for families, artists, and the working class to create Portland’s creative culture. I am writing to encourage residents, families, artists, and lovers of Portland’s culture to fight against gentrification of the peninsula by developers and local government.
Our current City Council approves tens of millions of dollars in tax cuts through “TIF”s every year for out-of-state developers, all while our schools are literally falling apart. As a member of the school board, I am extremely disturbed by the fact that Portland classrooms have caught on fire, as with the case of the Hall School last year, and children in our district are in classrooms without running water. While Portland Schools are in desperate need of safe and affordable classroom space, City Councilors Ed Suslovic and Nick Mavadones proposed the sale of the Nathan Clifford School to a private developer for $1 and the Council voted 9-0 in support of the sale. It’s hard to even buy a cup of coffee in town for that price!
The council has gone so far as to sell public parks and public spaces to developers in order to clear more space for hotels. It appears as though the ultimate goal of the Council and developers is to turn Portland’s peninsula into an amusement park where no one can afford to live, the schools are neglected, and the economy is completely tied to frivolous and seasonal spending. Several members of the Council have strong ties to the real estate industry, and perhaps not since Portland’s last great fire or “Urban Renewal” has there been such a push for development anda squeeze to get working Mainers, families, and artists out of the city.
Thankfully, there is a renewed interest by residents of Portland to save our peninsula. Several residents are suing the city over the sale of Congress Square Park, and a new initiative called “Keep Portland Livable” has been launched to counteract a 14-story condo complex and a parking garage “TIF” in the Bayside Neighborhood. I am encouraging Portlanders to speak out at the next City Council meeting, or better yet vote out members of the Council who have spent a decade or more making sweetheart deals with out-of-state developers.