Write-in council candidates fill out Nordic opposition 'slate'

Salmon farm opponents running on platform of civility, transparency
By Ethan Andrews | Oct 02, 2018
Ellie Daniels and Jim Merkel are running as write-in candidates for City Council Wards 1 and 5, respectively.

Belfast — Two outspoken opponents of the city's role in a proposed land-based salmon farm have entered City Council races as write-in candidates. They join a third opponent who went through the formal nomination process and will appear on the ballot.

Ellie Daniels, owner of The Green Store and a retired midwife, is running as a write-in candidate for Ward 1 against incumbent Councilor Mary Mortier.

Jim Merkel, an engineer, educator, filmmaker and community activist, is running as a write-in candidate in Ward 5 against Paul Dean. The seat is currently held by John Arrison, who is not seeking re-election.

Both have publicly opposed plans by the Norwegian company Nordic Aquafarms to build a $150 million land-based salmon farm that would be the second-largest of its kind in the world.

In Ward 2, Joanne Moesswilde, a nurse practitioner who also has been critical of the city's handling of the salmon farm, is challenging incumbent Councilor Neal Harkness. Both Moesswilde and Harkness will appear on the ballot.

The entry of Daniels and Merkel to the council races creates a "write-in slate" of candidates for opponents of the proposed salmon farm.

Daniels, who lives on property that abuts land owned by Nordic Aquafarms and is co-plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city related to the proposed development, said she and other opponents had hoped to have candidates in each of the three open City Council races when nominations closed last month.

In Ward 5, Jessica Falconer filed nomination papers but withdrew soon after the close of nominations, in part, she said, because of the conflicts surrounding the Nordic Aquafarms proposal.

"The salmon farm is totally dividing us, and I didn't want any part of it," she said Oct. 2, adding that she encouraged others to run as write-ins.

Daniels said salmon farm opponents hoped former City Councilor Larry Theye would run in Ward 1. Theye, who lives across Route 1 from the proposed salmon farm site, said he shares Daniels' concerns but never seriously considered returning to the council.

"I was asked by a number of people," he said, "but I never gave them any encouragement."

In an Oct. 1 joint statement, Daniels and Merkel listed other priorities they would bring to the City Council, including support for local industries, lowering taxes, raising wages and promoting affordable housing. All three candidates, they said, "are running to ensure civility, transparency, and adherence to legal process in city government."

Daniels and Merkel have scheduled a press conference to formally announce their candidacy Friday, Oct. 5, at noon, outside City Hall.

Interviews with all City Council candidates are slated to appear in the Oct. 18 issue of The Republican Journal.

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