Over the last several years, the city of Westbrook has undergone a major transition in not only the identity of our city, but also the perception of our city in the region. We were once considered simply a “mill town” that offered little to the people of greater Portland, except the awful odor that emanated from the S.D. Warren smokestacks.
During the last five years, we have become one of the more desirable places to live in all of southern Maine. We have seen our housing values skyrocket as well as a hopeful, new beginning in the redevelopment of our downtown. Whenever change occurs, however, controversy is certain to follow.
No process is perfect, particularly one that has not been traveled before, but to fault our leaders for taking bold action emasculates them into a state of indecision and inaction.
While this may surprise you, I fully support former Mayor Don Esty’s decision to provide Flannery Properties with 90 parking spaces in the CVS parking lot for the One Riverfront Plaza building. Former Mayor Esty recognized the crucial piece that adequate parking played into the building or not building of One Riverfront Plaza. He further recognized that without this building moving forward, the prospects for the future of our downtown would be greatly diminished.
I applaud former Mayor Esty’s decision. It was decisive, showed vision and proved a clear recognition of the importance One Riverfront Plaza would play in the re-vitalization of our downtown.
Further, based upon a reading of our city charter, I believe former Mayor Esty’s action is binding under our mayoral form of governance. Instead of running for political cover, I believe our leaders from both political parties should honor this agreement AND take a lesson in the value of decisive action.
If the City Council invalidates this agreement, they will call into question the integrity of the mayor’s office and invalidate the authority granted to the mayor by our city charter. Should this occur, they should then take the further step of opening up our city charter and change our form of strong mayoral governance to a City Council form of governance and make them the final arbiter of any action in Westbrook.
Quick, decisive action in Westbrook is something that has been missing for quite sometime from the majority of our elected leaders. It is not surprising that a strong reaction against the bold actions of former Mayor Don Esty on a parking issue would generate such a run for cover.
P.S. Solve the police contract NOW! In the next few weeks, you will give the school department whatever they demand, without so much as a whimper, during the coming budget process. Shouldn’t we at least provide those who keep our families safe and secure with a resolution to this contract situation after no contract for almost three years? This is about the right priorities. Taking care of our police officers by solving their contract situation should be priority one for the city of Westbrook.