By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,435)
Developing strategies to block the sale of the Congress Square Plaza by the City of Portland to RockBridge was the focus of the meeting attended by thirteen members of the Friends of Congress Square Park meeting at city hall earlier this week. The focus was prompted by the city’s Housing and Community Development Committee 3 to 1 vote to direct the city staff to enter negotiations with RockBridge to purchase the plaza next to the Westin Hotel, in the arts district in downtown Portland.
Several committees were formed to pursue possible courses of action in the coming months. Tom McMillan and Herb Adams decided to work together to come up with language that would be appropriate should the sale be put to a referendum for the November 2013 election. McMillian who just directed the legalizing marijuana petition drive, explained the timing of the process.
Ethan Kent of the Project for Public Spaces informed David Lacasse, group member, that he is available to spend Monday, June 17th in Portland discussing strategies to block the same and keep the property for the people. Consideration was given to conducting a contest to redesign the Plaza in lieu of the RockBridge proposal. This event would attract local press and possibly “The Boston Globe.” The intent is to receive as much national attention to the matter as possible. Adams said he was certain three local televsion stations would publicize the event and he was confident he could get “The Portland Daily Sun” to do an in-depth interview with Kent, a Bowdoin College graduate. (He did his graduate work at Antioch University Seattle’s Center for Creative Change in Environment and Community.) The press angle would be to let the public know how Portlanders are being victimized by its city. An effort could be made to attract a national figure such as Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. Barring that choice Diane Davison, Hillary Bassett and Jamie Parker could be invited guests. City council members should be invited as well. One member suggested the Bangor Daily News should be contacted because it is of higher quality than the Portland Press Herald. Press packets would have to be made and a commitee was formed to make them.
Several others voluntered to examine the city’s charter to see if the city can sell public property to private businesses and whether or not the HCDC is acting legally or not. “Oversight of this Committee is needed,” said one member. The importance of seeking pro bono legal advice was discussed as well with at least one name mentioned; former city attorney David Laurie. Laurie has done pro bono work for the Green party in the past. Since the group does not have a website, Turek said he would develop one soon.
City councilors were discussed and whch ones to lobby for their support and which ones not to. It was said that Councilor Jill Duson might be amenable to their point of view while Councilor John Anton was irriated by discussions of the Plaza and the marijuana petition and should not be lobbied. The group was certain that Councilor Kevin Donoghue of District 1 was in their camp.
The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 2nd.