Third time a charm for Brass CompassSeagull ordinance approved, MacDougal School request shot down
Rockland — After a great deal of debate, comments and amendments, the City Council voted 5-0 June 11 to allow the Brass Compass Cafe to have some tables in the Winslow-Holbrook Memorial Park.
The Brass Compass will pay a fee of $1,200 to have the tables there from June 15 to Oct. 31.
The issue was on the agenda due to an order sponsored by Councilor Lizzie Dickerson. Councilor Larry Pritchett offered an amendment, proposing a fee of $1,800 at first, but the council voted to amend the fee to $1,200.
This is the third month in a row this issue has come to the city council.
Gaye Best, a relative of one of the veterans honored in the park, and her attorney Jason Heath of Rockland spoke out against the use of the park. Heath argued the council could not, according to its own ordinances, bring the same issue back three times in a row, changing its vote.
The council noted the conditions of the agreement with Brass Compass had changed substantially from the original proposed agreement that was shot down in April.
Mike Phillips of the American Legion also spoke out against tables in the park.
Mayor Brian Harden issued an apology during the meeting for his behavior at a previous meeting in which he threw his hat at Dickerson. She threw it back and then overturned his can of Diet Pepsi, which did not have more than a few drops of fluid left in it.
Harden said councilors should be held to a higher standard and he had lost sight of that.
This came after Councilors Will Clayton, Pritchett and Eric Hebert chastised the councilors for the fighting at the recent city council meeting.
Pritchett said we are living in an "era of food-fight politics." He said the mayor sometimes comes across as patronizing and controlling. Dickerson, he said, is sometimes seen as disrespectful and disruptive.
Local attorney Joe Steinberger, who wants to help create a new center for the arts in Rockland in the wake of the closure of the Lincoln Street Center, lambasted the council over access to the former MacDougal School.
He was speaking in support of an order that would support the efforts of The Old School Institute for Arts and Sciences by having the city manager provide access to the MacDougal building for engineering and feasibility studies.
"No one should have to come here and beg you to do your job," he said.
He said Pritchett had said the building was "garbage," and Steinberger said he wanted to have engineers inspect the building.
"I don't feel I should show respect when it is not due," he said.
Clayton took issue with the way Steinberger presented information at the meeting. He said the group has until September to go through the building before any proposed demolition would take place. In addition, he questioned the ability of Old School to refurbish and buy the former school when it had indicated it could not afford a lease agreement on other vacant buildings in the city.
Clayton said it was egregious that the council was being demonized as attacking arts and culture in the city.
"This is someone picking up their crayons and going home because they didn't get their own way," he said.
The council voted the measure down 3-2 with Harden and Dickerson favoring it.
The council also voted 4-1 to finalize an ordinance on feeding wildlife to deal with problems associated with neighbors feeding seagulls. It was stressed the ordinance will not prohibit the feeding of songbirds.
Councilor Pritchett's full comments concerning council behavior:
"I want to briefly speak to some of the events that transpired at Council’s meeting one week ago
I believe that Council’s first obligation is to strive to make the best decisions we collectively can make that serve the long term interests of Rockland.
I believe Council’s second obligation is to strive to conduct the people’s business in a manner the community can respect.
Councils will make decisions that will disappoint some parts of our community. But we should always strive to conduct ourselves in a manner that the public can see our intentions and understand our decisions.
Flying hats, patronizing language, tossed soda cans and disruptive conduct undercut the work of all of city government and tarnishes the image of Rockland as a place to live and do business.
I recognize that we live in an era of food fight politics. To narrow audiences this type of conduct may seem like good politics. But, to me, it is a totally unacceptable way to govern.
The first obligation of the mayor should be to facilitate discussions among all members of Council and to help Council shape policies that reflect the best ideas of everyone sitting around the table.
Unfortunately, too often the Mayor’s conduct comes across to the public in a manner that may be seen as patronizing or controlling or even manipulative.
Likewise, in advocating for a point or cause she believes in, Councilor Dickerson’s conduct comes across as disruptive or disrespectful to both other members of Council and to the legislative process.
We all get tired and patience can certainly fray. I’ll forgive anyone for briefly losing their temper. God knows one side of my family is infamously short tempered.
I respect both of my colleagues and I believe they believe in this City and are striving to do the best they can for it.
But, I expect better from both of you and I believe the public demands better from all of us up here."