By Carol McCracken (Post # 691)
Last night the Portland city council voted unanimously not to support a request from the USS John F. Kennedy Museum committee that would permit it to move into Phase 11 in a bid to the US Navy to bring the decommissioned aircraft to Portland Harbor. Last year the council voted to support the effort, but according to some councilors the reaction to the approval was so negative by some of their constituents they wanted to send a clear message to the Committee.
In 2007 the Kennedy was decomissioned and in 2009 the US Navy announced its intention to donate the ship to a suitable non-profit organization to restore the ship and use it appropriately. The “USS John F. Kennedy Museum” committee was formed in order to be awarded the ship and establish it as a museum and in Portland Harbor and to undertake this task.
Stephen Woods, CEO & Executive Director of the Committee, during a special 10 minute slide presentation told the council that bringing the 1,015,5 ft. Kennedy to Portland was a unique opportunity for Maine. Woods, a councilor in Yarmouth, said this council has an “obligation to look at bigger projects – to be transformational for the city.” Woods went on to say that the ship “will not dwarf the harbor or egregiously obstruct views from Munjoy Hill.” Talking to councilors who often looked bored and at times annoyed, Woods told them that every great city has an “identifiable” image, not aware that the city considers Ocean Gateway the city’s landmark image. “This would make Portland a world class city. This is large,” he said.
F. Lee Bailey, 77, nationally known defense attorney, spoke for several minutes following Woods. A resident of Yarmouth, he said the Committee was asking for the council not to kill it tonight and look more before saying no. “The ship will probably be scrapped if she doesn’t get a home.”
Michael Lowell told the city that the USS Olympia is based in Philadelphia and soon to be scrapped because no one can afford it – it’s too expensive. The Kennedy is 23 times as long. “The Kennedy was not in any major battles. It would eliminate other uses for the waterfront and has no connection to Maine,” Lowell said.
Diane Davison, president of the Friends of the Eastern Promenade told the council that the Kennedy “is not compatible with plans for the waterfront. Our organization voted unanimously against the Kennedy here in Portland.”
One Hill resident who did support the Commitee was Doug Urbach who said: “They turn everything down. I wish they would have tabled it and considered it later. The council doesn’t want to do anything.”
Councilor Jill Duson said the “city does have vision. All visions would be obscurred. This ship would dominate the waterfront in lieu of other projects. Mayor Nick Mavodones said: “We do have a vibrant waterfront……but this is competing with other issues.”
Please visit baileyandelliott.com for Mr. Bailey’s website.