OPINION: This is why

By Mike Hurley | Sep 06, 2018

I am a Belfast City Council member and I voted to change the Belfast Water District land’s zoning to include aquaculture and allow the Nordic Aquaculture fish farm to submit an application. That process is underway.

Without the zoning change there can be no application so we’d never know what size would the farm be, how much water would they need and where would they get the water, or how much treated water would be sent out to the bay. Without the zoning change there won’t be an application.

Vocal opposition has urged the city to say no. I’ve read the letters, all of them; I’ve listened closely to many voices both at hearings and in person to the reasons to reject the proposal, I’ve become a student of aquaculture, and I am still a supporter of allowing an application to go forward. I have listened carefully, not with deaf ears, and I disagree with those opposed.

Why would the entire Belfast City Council feel this way? But better yet, why me? Why would a guy who resisted Vietnam, went to Woodstock in 1969, went “back to the land” in the early '70s, is proud to be called a hippie, made his bones at 29 in Belfast starting a legendary bar and restaurant when the town was at its absolute lowest, helped start the Waldo Independent newspaper, partnered in the Artfellows Gallery and the Church Street Festival, is a three-term mayor who struggled to save thousands of jobs at MBNA and Bank of America, is a guy who has planted over 1,000 Belfast street trees, cajoled Waterfall Arts to come in from the country and take on Anderson School, is a mayor who signed the Mayor’s Climate Change petition without council support, is a five-term city council member, the guy who started the Belfast Street Party and championed Our Town Belfast? Why that guy?

Why would No. 75 member of the Belfast Food Co-op, who brought the Belfast Bearfest to town, a man who has buried too many of his friends and and neighbors and also too often their children, who has grown older with people I knew before they were born — why would I support the fish farm?

As mayor and a city councilor I’ve championed the arts, created the Belfast poet laureate, supported Belfast Creative Coalition, banned plastic bags, proudly helped declare Indigenous Peoples Day, started the Drum and Rabble Marching Society to usher in New Year’s Eve, worked 20 years to bring the Rail Trail from a dream to reality, built and tended the New Year’s bonfire, proudly marched with my LGBTQ neighbors in Belfast Has Pride — and I’m not done yet.

Last year I was honored to be named Citizen of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce, hopefully because of my deep love for Belfast and my decades-long commitment to help in making it a better place. Why would this guy open the door to the fish farm?

Why me? Where am I coming from? I stand in a long line of working class people. One of five boys in a divorced home where my mom worked four jobs at once to keep us together. From an early age I started working and I’m not done yet.

When I came to Belfast the chicken plants started to fall, taking an entire industry and a traditional way of life with them. In many ways it was a hard life here in Belfast and the area and then it got worse when the shoe factories and sardine plant closed and the downtown and the whole town struggled. But we got through those hard times and Belfast has come roaring back.

If you do not work with the thousands of people who every day go to many large and small places of employment, you might not know it but Belfast is a honest-to-God real working place and not a tourist town or a retirement community where thousands of people go to work every day. We have developed a vibrant and varied economy but we are not done yet.

Many of our neighbors, young and old, still struggle every day to make a living. Housing is expensive, in part because this is such a great place to live, but many new people vie to own a home here. Taxes are high. Years of the state of Maine killing municipal support and crippling funding for education, and other contributing factors, have made Belfast the 14th-highest-taxed town in Maine. This deeply hurts the less affluent and the long-time and young residents, making it harder for them to keep or buy their homes.

There are only two ways to drive taxes down and make life here more affordable: 1) Cut spending, or 2) Increase valuation and revenue.

If you believe taxes can never go down, you would be wrong. Taxes can go down but we cannot make snow go away with a magic wand or keep health insurance rates and employee wages at 1975 levels. The fastest way to lower taxes or pay for things Belfast residents want without raising taxes is to increase valuation.

This is why I support the fish farm. If built out as proposed, Nordic will pay more taxes than the top 100 tax payers in Belfast, combined. That’s everything big in Belfast you can name. The fish farm will lower your taxes and it will make it possible to improve Belfast.

If the fish farm proposal was not destined to pay enormous taxes to help lower your tax bill, why would we bother going through all this trouble? Our primary motivation is to lower your tax burden.

This is why I support the Nordic application and want to know more through the application process. I adhere to the motto “Above all, do no harm” and I believe this to be true until proven differently. I would never harm Belfast, but I would walk through hell to make it a better place.

We’re not done yet.

Mike Hurley represents Belfast's Ward 4 on the City Council.

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Comments (4)
Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Sep 09, 2018 15:33

Bradley....When someone poopoo's your accident of fish over board, remind them to take a ruler on the google airport map and see the new aqua fish farm is directly underneath the airports runway approach and departure paths.  Greenville Me's Airport might be able to help understand that accidents DO happen!

Posted by: Bradley Williams | Sep 06, 2018 15:58

Nobody can cast aspersions on Mike Hurley's intentions or his remarkable contributions to our community.

Unfortunately, there is simply no excuse to hand over our pristine fresh water to a foreign corporation so they can grow GMO Franken-food salmon, sell it, and take the proceeds to Norway.

Maplewood Poultry ruined the bay for decades, and the salmon factory would be much worse, pumping and spilling the waste into the bay.

It would be a blight of epic proportions, a monstrosity sitting smack dab on top of what is arguably the most beautiful, picturesque spot on the coast of Maine.

The trucks with their jake brakes would further diminish the quality of life for all that live within earshot of Rt 1.

Furthermore, the ecological disaster that would result from the inevitable "accidental" release of the GMO salmon into the indigenous salmon could literally wipe out the indigenous fisheries.

The only good arguments for the salmon "farm" are economic ONLY, and what we're being asked, no told, to sacrifice is not worth any amount of money.

Mike, you need to go back to Woodstock.

We've got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Peace, love and NO GMO SALMON!!

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Sep 06, 2018 12:13

I want to apologize to you for not including a thank you for everything you have done for Belfast in my previous post.  You truly have made Belfast a "hip place to be"!  Thank you!

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Sep 06, 2018 12:11

The tax argument, as you must remember back when MBNA came to town, with thousands and thousands of jobs was $17.90.  The mill rate was reduced for ONE year ONLY!  The $40,000,000 MBNA project lowered the mill rate .40 cent per thousand for just one year.  Then the next year the mill rate returned to the $17.90.  Then the third year, of the boom times of MBNA coming to Belfast and lowering our taxes, had the next year RAISE! yes repeat RAISE a whole $1.00 to the mill rate.  Then the next year it rose .50 cents per mill rate.  Then the next year it went from $19.40 to $21.30!!!!!!!  That is an increase of $1.90 per 1000!!   Then jumped the next year to $22.00.  So, to me, the growth to lower taxation without some sort of promise to lock in the increased tax revenue generation looses it's argument.


I am glad you have been in Belfast to remember how the new valuation is not a promise of lower taxes.  Maybe you can use the above listed strengths in experience to come up with some sort of promise to the citizens to lock in the promise.  MBNA is a perfect example of how promised lower taxes DO NOT always lead to savings in each citizens pockets.


If the MBNA drop in taxes and saves .40 cents of the mill rate for ONE year and then the promised lower taxes then rise $4.50 per mill over the next five years???  Is it really "lowering" our taxes?


The mill rates were taken from the Cities web site and are assumed correct.

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