A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

We have a representative government!

"At a certain point, you have representative government and you live with that."
-Jim Clouter (quoted in the Bollard)

Back when former Councilor Jim Cloutier spoke these words in July, he uttered them with the characteristic arrogance of an authority figure who thinks he knows better than everyone else. At the time, Cloutier was in the middle of engineering the Maine State Pier logjam, one of the most spectacular failures of leadership this City has seen in some time. Now, the day after Election Day, Cloutier has been relieved of his public service duties, and these words take on a much more eloquent, patriotic tone, don't you think?

With Cloutier out of the way, the Maine State Pier process has a chance to move forward, and in a direction that won't induce vomiting.

The new Council seems likely to break the previous deadlock by endorsing Olympia Properties as a partner in redevelopment. Instead of letting Olympia go ahead and build their proposal, though, the Council's newer members will probably endorse a series of public charrettes to determine what Portland citizens really want to have on their Pier.

By selecting a development partner, the City will be agreeing that private development should pay for the Pier's infrastructure, including the construction of the megaberth cruise ship terminal further east. Portlanders may say "no" to a five star hotel, but ultimately, Olympia is going to need to make a profit to make this project worthwhile for them.

This means that the Pier will NOT turn into a wide-open, grassy dog toilet like the Eastern Prom, no matter how much people scream for "open space." It will have to host some productive built space to pay taxes, pay Olympia, and pay for the infrastructural investments that our working waterfront needs.

Incidentally, the Maine State Pier, or any of the upper level offices on Portland's working waterfront, would be a wet-dream workplace for any number of innovative, mobile tech companies or individuals. Didn't IDEXX start out in this neighborhood before its remarkable growth forced it to seek more space in Westbrook? An adaptive reuse of the existing Pier warehouse could preserve some space for marine industrial uses while also accommodating flexible office or light industrial space to incubate new, growing businesses in our city.

Or it could be another place for people my age to work for low wages and no benefits in the service of rich people. It's up to us, now.

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