Very fishy

On Tuesday night, April 17, the Belfast City Council, under overwhelming opposition, approved in lockstep a zoning change for a massive monoculture salmon farm placed tight against the beloved Little River Trail, paving the way to clear-cut a de facto forested greenbelt.

Not privy to the months of back-room sessions, it appears I missed the Kool-Aid. The public was told in a series of council speeches, that we were ill-informed. Their applicant’s information was — “facts.” The public’s questions — “fears.”

They told us to trust them — that this, largest-ever, never-build-before, industrial feedlot, would cut taxes and have few risks. It would provide 60 million pounds of glorious, tortured, pen-confined flesh for us to feed our kids.

Council and staff behaved as advocates for industry at a “public hearing,” their minds appeared made up before coming. Our new mayor intimidated speakers and corralled the rubber stamp — particularly troubling, as I supported her campaign.

The obvious was missing. That monocultures are the antithesis of sustainability — there is no ecological free lunch. That local organic economies recycle dollars in the community. Outside corporations send dollars out of the community and often don’t pay their way, as Michael Shuman’s research shows. That democracy means involvement of citizens in big decisions, not backroom deals.

And to the $240,000 industry subsidy the Belfast City Council has promised Nordic Aquafarms?  Shame on you, Belfast. I’d rather see a discussion on how to spend this money — removing dams, protecting habitat and water and returning wild fish stocks. We could create a Little River Greenbelt and grow organic fruits and vegetables on the already-cleared land.

My guess is that you now have a fight on your hands like the “thanks but no tank” of Searsport. This is our town, Belfast, remember?

Jim Merkel

Belfast

Shame on council

I am dismayed at the City Council’s decision to pass the zoning regulations to change a pristine 40 acres from Residential to Industrial. Given the size of the project and the intense concern of many of us, there is no reason the council couldn’t have held off a couple of months so that some of the issues raised could be further explored.

Yes, the company might have been somewhat inconvenienced, but which is more important — a company from away or Belfast citizens? Shame on the council for completely disregarding its constituents’ concerns.

The project is too big and too outside the norms of what Belfast is. The land-based fish farm technology is too new and unproven, especially as to long-term effects. An article in the industry newspaper Aquaculture North America reads : “Land-based salmon still not investor-ready.”

Nordic Aquafarms is too young and inexperienced; it hasn’t even harvested a salmon yet. And the process has been too fast: We Belfastians only learned about the potential sale of the Water District property and the fish factory-farm over the past few months. If the council has access to more information, it needs to let the public know what it is.

The proposal will next be in the hands of the Planning Board. As was stated multiple times, the board is not able to change the rules or increase or modify restrictions but is only empowered to apply the rules. The new zoning rules for that property allow 30 acres of built surface, 50-foot building height, the lighting required for a 24/7 industrial operation, and the noise associated with a seven- to 10-year building period. An estimated 25 tanker trucks daily will be required to bring feed in and fish out.

Is this what we want for our town? Is this the highest and best use of this property? Councilors, ask your constituents.

Linda Buckmaster

Belfast

Citizen participation?

What has changed at the Belfast City Council? As a Northport resident I am happy that the council allowed me to participate at a recent hearing. Certainly proposing something like the largest land based fish factory in the U.S., a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) on the Northport border, suggests that this activity may affect more than Belfast. Loss of groundwater and disposal of brackish wastes are examples of concerns to Belfast’s neighbors and islands.

So how can Waldo County neighbors participate? Judging from recent dialogues, I now ask, “How can even Belfast residents meaningfully participate?”

Actually, I was shocked at the way participatory dialogue was absent by design at the recent public hearing. Many people were unable to enter the hearing as it was overfilled, seniors had no chairs, the sound system echoed, and the hearing was set up only for speeches, with no back and forth dialogue.

Both proponents and opponents of the plan to downgrade a resource protection area to an industrial zone came with prepared speeches, councilors included. No explanation was given why even a 30-day pause could not be provided to allow dialogue, even if the same result is predestined.

Now I am hearing of aggressively defensive responses and personal attacks occurring publicly and in social media toward individuals, “liberals,” teachers, “outtastatahs” and retired senior citizens.

What has caused this change? Can we return to civility? How can the public participate?

John and Wendy Krueger

Northport

What comes next?

When we are growing Fish on Land

And the mighty, tall coastal Trees

Fall not by a stormy Seabreeze

But instead by chainsaw…

I ask you,

Where will the Night Singing Coyotes Roam?

Go sing.

Eat.

Be.

The world is turning inside-out-upside-down

The Night Sky wonders …

What comes next?

Joanne Moesswilde

Belfast

As we pick up the tab …

Another tax day has come and gone. Families who work hard, yet still see the cost of everything rising faster than their wages, have paid their taxes. Now those in control of Washington will look for ways to give them less for their money.

Yes, right now it’s the Republicans. But regardless of which party is in control, Congress often seems to act against the best interests of ordinary citizens. Why? Money. Corporations, mega-rich individuals, industry lobbyists and even foreign interests pour obscene amounts of money into our elections, they demand favorable legislation in return, and they get what they pay for.

The Trump-GOP tax bill that passed last December is a case in point. It gave away $1.5 trillion in tax breaks, mostly to the wealthiest 1 percent and huge corporations. Now that this terrible bill has blown an enormous hole in the deficit, Trump and the Republicans in Congress are looking to force deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and education to pay for their massive giveaway.

How will we ever fix the system if our lawmakers are hooked on the money of those who don’t want the system to get fixed? This November we have a chance.

Perhaps inspired by Bernie Sanders, a new kind of candidate, who does not accept corporate or PAC money, is emerging across the country: people like Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Ro Khanna of California and Jared Polis of Colorado.

And we have our own home-grown reformer right here in Maine. Jonathan Fulford is running to replace Bruce Poliquin to represent our 2nd Congressional District.  He is running in the Democratic primary on June 12 against three other good Democrats — but while Jonathan has taken the Pine Tree Pledge (to never accept corporate PAC or dark money), the others have not.

By sending Jonathan Fulford to Washington, we can support this national movement to reclaim our democracy from the corrupting influence of money, and we can be certain that his votes in Congress will be guided solely by his conscience and the best interests of the people of Maine.

Meredith Ares

Searsport

The right choice

Jan Dodge is the right choice for our Belfast-Waldo-Northport representative. I have been privileged to know Jan for about 10 years, through my own small work with Waldo County TRIAD, an organization that helps keeps senior citizens safe.

Anyone would tell you how vibrant and well organized she is. And her humor makes the work easier for us all! Jan already knows the issues facing our residents in the three towns. She is an experienced leader, helping to get Aging Well in Waldo County going on a strong footing, and as president of Retired Educators of Waldo County.

Jan Dodge was born and raised in Belfast and graduated third in her class from Belfast Area High School. She lives a life of service, she sits on the Maine Education Association Government Relations Committee, and is the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce cruise ship greeter.

Jan worked hard to make sure the Stand Up for Students referendum passed in Maine in 2016. But the battle to fund the law was a tough one. She went to work testifying before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. She has been advocating for students in Augusta for many years. She knows many lawmakers well. When it came to working the hallways of the Legislature, she was clearly experienced and skillful.

I send emails to our current rep, Erin Herbig, on average about once a week on various legislation and had taken to copying Jan so she could know what to expect from the likes of this busybody: She actually thanked me, as it keeps her apprised about the work she will need to do to diligently represent us in the State House.

My hope is that voters can meet Jan Dodge, a Democrat, and talk with her. Like me, they might even want to help her get elected. You can read more about her, and her platform, and her schedule here: jandodge.com.

Jan Dodge has been a frequent voice in Augusta at legislative hearings advocating for Improving public education as well as supporting and representing seniors. Jan decided to run for public office so she could be of greater service to her community and the state of Maine. Jan has the time, energy and ability to be an effective representative for the people of Belfast, Northport and Waldo.

The more I get to know Jan, the more I realize that we need her as our legislator for House District 97. Registered Dems should be voting on June 12 for a winner: Jan Dodge.

Paul Sheridan

Northport

Hills for House

I am so impressed with Caitlin Hills, candidate for Maine House District 97, Belfast, Northport and Waldo, that I have changed my longstanding voter registration as an independent to Democrat, so I can vote for her in the June 12 primary.

I have not known Caitlin long but I have seen her remarkable desire and ability to listen and respond with intelligence and compassion to a wide variety of viewpoints during several community listening sessions.

Her experience as a working single mom, law school graduate, adviser to a U.S. senator on environmental issues, author of legislation that actually passed, longtime community activist, life-long Democrat, and chairwoman of the Regional School Unit 71 Board of Directors, enable her to articulate commonsense, workable positions on our most pressing problems, such as the growing costs of education versus rising property taxes. In those give-and-take sessions, young and old were amazed at her thoughtful grasp of every issue.

I wholeheartedly endorse Caitlin’s views on critical protection of our environment; making the state pay its promised share of education costs; commonsense, effective gun policies; affordable, quality health care for all; protecting voter rights and initiatives; increased affordable housing; fair state education formulas affecting local property taxes; full gender, racial and sexual equality; practicing fiscal responsibility; and expanding post-secondary education and opportunities.

We are lucky to have a woman of Caitlin’s ability, experience and passion step up to the difficult, time-consuming challenge of campaigning to represent us in the Maine Legislature. She deserves our support.

David Estey

Belfast

Climate change

This past month the Belfast City Council agreed to establish a Climate Change Committee. Its mission is to catalyze actions throughout the Belfast community for a sustainable future while adapting to climate change. That means adapting to the reality of the problem, but it also means taking on projects that mitigate the community’s carbon footprint and deliver cost savings as well.

While the city’s Energy Committee has been working on sustainability and cost-savings measures for our municipal operations and facilities, CCC will expand its work into the broader community, networking with other sustainability groups active throughout the state to help tackle the increasing complexities brought about by climate change, especially to coastal communities. It has been shown throughout the U.S. that when businesses, industries and residents begin addressing climate change, the entire community benefits.

Recognizing that everyone in Belfast is a potential stakeholder, we look forward to engaging both individuals and groups of people in specific local projects that advance our goals. We also have plenty of resources from which to draw for assistance as we address each new project, from other cities’ experiences to various experts in their fields. Our agendas and minutes are available on the cCity’s website (cityofbelfast.org), and we are working to create a CCC page at this website to provide updates on all our projects.

The Belfast Climate Change Committee meets at City Hall on the first and third Tuesdays each month, from 8 to 9 a.m. Contact CCC secretary Barbara Bell (bcbell@aol.com) for more information. We welcome your suggestions, questions, and comments as we move forward.

Mayor Samantha Paradis, Chairman

Eric Sanders, City Council

Jonathan Beal, Vice Chairman

Barbara Bell, Secretary

Sally Bennett

Hank Reisner

Beverly Roxby