You can't get to the polls from here
City officials continue to promise downtown business owners, Rockland residents and now voters eventual relief from the sewer project that has dug up some of our busiest streets in the beginning of our busiest season.
It was disappointing that residents had to dodge construction equipment and traffic jams to get to the polls to vote at the recreation center Tuesday, June 12. In hindsight, it would have made more sense to have the voting at City Hall for this primary.
Hopefully the situation will be resolved by July 1, so businesses in the downtown can have a strong summer.
Tables in the park, concluded?
Rockland's City Council held another lengthy and contentious meeting Monday night, June 11. It voted to allow Lynn Archer, owner of The Brass Compass Cafe, to have tables in part of the Winslow-Holbrook Memorial Park this summer for a fee of $1,200. It makes sense to charge her a fee for the use of the city property to make it fair to other businesses that have to pay either taxes on their own property for outdoor seating or, in most cases, some sort of fee to use public land. The price was based, in part, on what was charged to Shell's Grille to use public land to run a food stand, so it was not arbitrary.
It was also nice to see the council reach a consensus on the issue, eventually voting 5-0 in favor of allowing the tables.
Some concerns remain. One is that there are a number of conditions placed on this use, and it was made clear that after Labor Day the use of the park may be discontinued at any time. So Archer is moving forward, but with the feeling the rug could be pulled out from under her at any time.
In addition, this only deals with the issue for this summer. Does that mean we can look forward to another three-month controversy over tables in the park in the spring of 2013? Hopefully the council will continue to work on resolving this issue once and for all between now and then.
Finally, the vote was taken over the protests of some American Legion veterans and the family members of the fallen soldiers honored by the memorial park. One family member brought a lawyer to the meeting to protest it, so chances are this issue has not been put to rest permanently.
Councilors were on their best behavior Monday night. Mayor Brian Harden apologized for the incident at a recent meeting in which he threw his hat at Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson, as he should.
Dickerson did not issue an apology for her behavior, which included throwing the hat back and overturning a Diet Pepsi can with very little liquid left in it.
Fellow Councilor Larry Pritchett summed the issue up best in chastising the other council members, saying:
"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."
He adds that people get tired and he can forgive anyone losing their temper. We think both are good points.
The public comment period at the beginning of City Council meetings provides a wonderful opportunity for community involvement, but the council often cannot attend to its agenda due to the lengthy comments. This should be limited to half an hour so the meetings do not end at midnight in physical altercations.
We also believe once an apology is made, it should be accepted. These people work hard for the city and take a lot of criticism doing so.
No school like the old school
We support Joe Steinberger in his efforts to help keep an arts center in the community.
The Old School Institute for Arts and Sciences would replace the Lincoln Street Center, and the city has seen benefits from the latter over the years.
That said, we're not sure the former MacDougal School is the best future for this program. On the surface at least, it looks like trading one outdated, rundown building for another.