To the Editor:
I am enormously thankful to the 376 people who signed the citizen initiative that became Article 13 and the 679 voters who endorsed Article 13 at the voting booth.
Bar Harbor voters continue to have a tradition of independence and willingness to buck the conventional wisdom that one “can’t fight city hall.”
In talking with voters this spring, those of us who want some limits on the Miami-based cruise ship industry sensed a real groundswell of support for the commonsense caps that Article 13 would have placed in the hands of the voters. That enthusiasm dramatically changed when the town negotiated an option agreement with the MDOT that allegedly would have terminated if Article 13 passed. Voters told us that they didn’t wish to risk fighting both “city hall and the state of Maine.”
For hundreds of voters, the desire to have the town own the ferry terminal site trumped the desire to have the future of cruise ship expansion in the town rest with the voters.
If we are to believe the supporters of Article 12, the size of any cruise ship pier at the ferry terminal site is not a foregone conclusion. Newly elected Councilor Judy Noonan and Cruise Ship Committee member Jeff Dobbs publicly said that they opposed a pier that would reach over 2,000 feet into Frenchman Bay. However, last October, the cruise ship industry consultant hired by the town, Luis Ajamil, of the Miami-based firm of Bermello, Ajamil & Partners Inc. described just such a pier.
Thus, a sizeable number of voters voted for Article 12 in the belief that a much more modest cruise ship pier could be built. Supporters of 12 stressed that 12 simply gave the town options.
As we approach the visioning sessions the town promises to hold on July 17 and 24, perhaps we should do what any careful person does: seek a second opinion. Any good surgeon will urge a hesitant patient to seek a second opinion.
As a lawyer, I have often urged my clients to do the same and often provided a second opinion when another lawyer’s client has hesitated. The town’s paid consultant, Ajamil, has primarily been involved with the cruise ship industry by helping to build large piers capable of docking the largest cruise ships in the world.
Should not Bar Harbor seek a second opinion from a Maine-based marine facilities architecture/engineering firm? I suspect Ajamil will tell voters that only a mega-pier will make economic sense. However, last Oct. 27, Ajamil emailed council Chair Paradis about what the town might do if a Bar Harbor Port Authority were not created: “the town can use the property for tender and parking in order to recoup the monies to pay the state back.”
I suspect Ajamil has forgotten that advice, but Bar Harbor citizens should not. The beauty of a tendering facility capable of docking mid-size cruise ships only is that other uses for the terminal open up: a marina, a ferry to Winter Harbor, and a commercial fishing pier. The future is ours, not Ajamil’s, despite the tens of thousands of dollars of town money we have paid him. Let us help the town imagine it.