Unchecked growth

To the Editor:

Last week’s letter from Susan Stanley, published in these pages, was so factually mistaken, illogical and personally offensive that it demands the present response. I must express my condolences for Stanley’s evident frustrations and fears about the possible sale of her business location that move her to blame me personally for “what his rhetoric has done to downtown businesses this season” and over past decades.

The reality is that my active personal role began, and the Bar Harbor Residents Association (BHRA) was formed, about one month ago (in late August), with multiple aims for improving town discourse and governance but taking as its first objective preventing a berthing pier for ever larger and more numerous cruise ships.

Stanley is reacting to unwelcome facts and players with fabrications and personal demonization. This approach is analogous (with the addition of personal invective) to blaming forecasters for bad weather, or scientists for explaining how people have caused dangerous climate changes, and is likewise neither rational nor productive.

Going forward, it is clear to many that Bar Harbor, in its continuing pursuit of ever more visitors and customers (including cruise ships), has exceeded its capacity and is no longer offering the quality of life and experience that it did in the past, and still could in the future.

Continuing unchecked or even intensifying with the installation of a berthing pier for large cruise ships, past trends that Stanley bemoans (or denies) would only intensify, and the town’s essential business and economic engine would suffer further and faster decline, to the detriment of all including the town’s small merchants.

Talking to thousands of residents and visitors each year, I hear more and more people say that they do not want to visit when cruise ships are in, come to this side of the island in general, buy property or retire here, etc., and that they abhor what a pier would do to Acadia and our shared region. I and others believe that Bar Harbor is simply promoting itself to death, foolishly sacrificing its uniqueness and heritage in pursuit of short-term profits for some.

As to Stanley’s (and the Town Council’s) indignation at being sued or becoming the focus of a mass social movement, she and others must accept realities. For a legal action (of which there may be many, with one already started independently of myself and the BHRA) to succeed, a judge must rule according to law. Law protects us all and is not an optional whim or plaything of any individual or group. Similarly, customers and visitors are not obligated to provide, and we are not entitled to receive, their patronage merely on principle. If consumers make their own decisions, and vote accordingly with their feet or pocketbooks, we have only ourselves to blame. Let us stop insisting on our own entitlement and instead focus on properly serving our customers and constituents.

In closing, Stanley’s intemperate and mistaken remarks may have the opposite effect to what she and others intend. Within hours of her letter appearing in the Islander, a longtime customer of her gallery came to me and joined the BHRA, saying they were disgusted by her tone and position. Others have enrolled similarly. So by all means she should feel free to continue her assistance to our recruiting of active and motivated participants, via her uncivil and illogical ranting. Stanley does not know me at all, but I am, and will remain, calm, transparent and steadfast in working for what I believe to be the long-term good of our community, which I love as much as anyone.

Charles Sidman

Bar Harbor

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