Minutes of the West End Neighborhood Association (WENA) Meeting
Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Reiche Community Room
Officers and Board members present: Jennifer Defilipp (vice-president), Leana Good-Simpson (treasurer), Ian Jacob (president), Chip Martin, Michel Michaud (acting secretary), Pamela Shaw, Clifford Tremblay
Board members absent: Wells Lyons, Elizabeth Parsons (secretary) (excused)
Others present: David Argitis(PPD), Wendy Cherubini, Jo Coyne, Rosanne Graef, Erin Hennessey (Fairvote Maine), Christine McHale, Janet Mishoe, Clare Mohs, Jay Norris (Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Association), Bill Needelman (City of Portland), Sonia Robertson, Karen Sarfaty, Ginny Schneider (Fairvote Maine), Jedd Steinglass (Woodard & Curran), Dick Stevens, Penny Stevens, Spencer Thibodeau, and Tony Zeli (West End News)
The meeting was called to order at 6:35 PM.
Minutes from June’s meeting were accepted as presented.
The current total in WENA’s regular account is $849.34.
The Swim Fund stands at $16.49.
Funds to pay the anticipated bill for swimming will be moved from WENA’s regular account. WENA’s regular account will be reimbursed from future donations to the Swim Fund.
WECAN Aging in Place funds received to date total $300.00. The treasurer will report that amount separately going forward.
David Argitis provided updates on the following issues:
- Efforts by the PPD and JB Brown to keep transients out of the area at York and Clark Streets.
- Ongoing efforts to eliminate prostitution on Congress Street between Neal and Walker Streets. Arrested four persons for solicitation. Had coordinated meetings with the St. John Valley Neighborhood Association.
- Appreciation for the Parks and Forestry Department’s clearing of brush around the Valley Street dog park to reduce the transients and campers.
- Increased focus on areas around schools with the start of the new year.
- Decrease in public drinking in the neighborhood.
The following issues were raised and discussed:
- Late-night activity at the 7-11 on Congress Street. PPD is working with the owner to help dissuade unwanted activity.
- Construction on Deering Street continuing for a long time.
- PPD’s response time to a 9-1-1 call regarding an inebriated and belligerent woman on Brackett Street. Call logs will be reviewed to determine if activity level prevented response sooner.
- Delivery trucks to Cumberland Farms too large and blocking traffic in street. Will keep an eye out for this problem.
- New vagrant seen in the neighborhood. PPD is not familiar with him and continues to look for him.
- Offensive behavior by persons at Cumberland Farms. Undesirable behavior may not be against the law.
- Apparently drunk and rude woman outside Catholic Charities on State Street. Aware of the issues at that location.
Member Reports and Announcements
- Christine McHale spoke about the Halloween parade in the West End; the new route that will help alleviate crowding; volunteers will be needed to carry the large puppets and attend to the barricades during the parade; and that Wynne Wirth will be talking about this in more detail at the WENA meeting in October.
- Penny Stevens asked whether WENA was aware of Maine Medical Center’s (MMC) expansion plans. Ian Jacob summarized the proposed $500 million expansion plans announced in The Press Herald. He said that the City’s Planning Department will be meeting with the neighborhood associations next week. Questions were raised regarding a campus plan for MMC, City approval of that plan, the City’s Master Plan and MMC’s expansion, and height restrictions for the planned 13-story parking garage between Valley and Gilman Streets. More information will be available at the WENA meeting in October.
- Ian Jacob reported that an announcement regarding RevUP, a voter registration event, will be posted in the kiosk on Brackett Street. The event will be held on National Voter Registration Day, September 27, from 12:00 to 2:00 PM, at Portland City Hall, in the State of Maine Room. Disability Rights Maine and the Portland Disability Advisory Committee are sponsoring the event for participants to learn about voting options, ask questions, register to vote, and try the new accessible voting devices that will be available at polling locations in November. Contact Riley Albair at 1-800-452-1948 or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ian Jacob reported that a flyer regarding the YMCA’s Fall Kickoff will be posted in the kiosk on Brackett Street. The Kickoff is to introduce people to the activities offered at the YMCA and solicit new members.
- Ian Jacob announced that the Reiche School PTO Yard Sale will be held in mid-October. Last year’s participation by WENA provided money for the Swim Fund. Anyone interested in coordinating WENA’s participation in the yard sale should contact Ian.
- Jo Coyne reported that one of the lifeguards and swimming teachers at Reiche mentioned that the students participating in the Swim-for-Life lessons wrote thank-you notes and inquired whether they were received by WENA. Leanna Good-Simpson stated that she has the notes and will bring them to the WENA meeting in October.
- Ian Jacob announced that the architect and artist for the re-design of Congress Square were selected by the City of Portland and that there will be a storefront workshop with them on October 4, 5, and 6, from 5:00 to 8:00 PM, at Think Tank located at 533 Congress Street for those interested. A flyer regarding the event will be posted in the kiosk on Brackett Street.
Ranked Choice Voting Presentation by Fairvote Maine
Ginny Schneider from Fairvote Maine spoke about Question 5 regarding ranked choice voting for state and federal elected officials (except the President) on the ballot for November 8. She defined the different terms used to describe voting results – majority winner, plurality winner, split voting, and strategic voting. Ginny pointed out that the City of Portland uses ranked choice voting to elect its mayor. Pros and cons, examples of other cities and countries that use ranked choice voting, and arguments for and against the practice were presented. Voter registration cards and absentee ballot request forms were made available. Erin Hennessey, also from Fairvote Maine, helped respond to questions.
Councilor Thibodeau Announcements
Spencer Thibodeau joined the meeting to provide a few updates.
- There will be a meeting in November dedicated to discussing the recently-announced expansion plans for Maine Medical Center (MMC).
- Reiche School improvements are progressing. Improvement of the crosswalks on Brackett Street has begun and continues. Delays are due to the large number of projects in progress throughout the City of Portland.
- The new entry way with elevator to Reiche School and Community Center from Clark Street is expected to be completed by the end of October or beginning of November this year.
- The next coffee with Councilor Thibodeau will be on October 1, from 8:00 to 10:00 AM, at Aurora Provisions, on Pine Street.
Portland Food Council Presentation
Jen Rowland provided an update on the recent changes to the initiative begun by former Mayor Brennan. The Portland Food Council works to foster a healthy community by advancing the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the food system. Although the City of Portland had supported the effort as a quasi-governmental effort, the Council continues as a place to work on questions and concerns about Portland’s food system; serve as the community’s connection to city government; and bring the community, government, and food producers and businesses together to collaborate on issues affecting Portland’s food system. Anyone interested in showing support for the Portland Food Council was asked to sign a sheet that was circulated which would be helpful to encourage the City of Portland’s participation in the effort. Handouts regarding the Portland Food Council was circulated.
Future Americold Cold Storage Facility at Portland IMT Presentation
Jedd Steinglass from Woodard & Curran presented some initial information about the history, location, and planned development of a cold storage facility on West Commercial Street. Woodard & Curran evaluated and identified the area between the rail spur and the shipping container facility for development. Americold was selected as the developer of the facility and its Request for Proposal (RFP) for a builder is out there. A meeting regarding the development plans sponsored by WENA and the Western Promenade Neighborhood Association is planned for October 13. More information regarding the development and future meetings will be distributed to residents by the neighborhood associations and to property owners directly affected by the City of Portland. Bill Needelman from the City of Portland assisted in responding to questions and stated that the cold storage facility is part of the City’s long-term policy to bring back the working waterfront. Discussion ensued regarding Americold’s current facilities and the design challenge that the location presents.
- Jay Norris, President of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization, mentioned the development on Sheridan Street and questions being raised about it. The developer will be meeting with representatives of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization and WENA.
- Rosanne Graef explained that partly due to the tragic drownings this summer, a swimming coalition made up of interested parties has been meeting regarding the importance of teaching Portland’s children to swim by making swimming part of the school curriculum again has made some progress. The Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA have discussed providing facilities and personnel. Second graders at Reiche School will receive swimming lessons paid for by WENA this year. Hall Elementary School second graders will go to Riverton Community Center for swim lessons this year. An event to swap old life jackets and boat flotation cushions for new ones tied to a paddling flotilla around Fort Gorges has been discussed. Anyone interested in this effort should contact Rosanne Graef.
- Rosanne Graef provided copies of the September calendar of events for Congress Square Park. She announced that on October 9, Leif Erikson Day, the Maine Nordmenn’s Viking ship will be at Congress Square Park for photo opportunities.
- Rosanne Graef invited everyone to participate in a dance party at Congress Square Park on September 28 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. Rosanne Graef and Ed King will be deejaying the hits from several decades.
- Ian Jacob announced that the City of Portland is seeking applications for water bottle filling stations and that WENA will be submitting an application for one possibly at the Reiche Community Center.
- Ian Jacob provided an announcement about The Locker Project on behalf of Gwynne Williams who could not attend the meeting. Neighborhood and community gardeners who have excess zucchini, beans, and other vegetables and want to donate them to help provide food-insecure children with nourishing food were asked to contact Ian.
The meeting adjourned at 8:11 PM.
Michel P. Michaud