The Working Waterfront

Our readers write—’Misplaced,’ no oil, and ‘Smart is silly’

Posted 2022-07-25
Last Modified 2022-07-25

‘Terribly misplaced’

To the editor:

I’ve been reading The Working Waterfront much more closely over the past year or two. There is so much great content now, well-reported from a variety of viewpoints. Still, some published pieces seem mismatched with the newspaper’s current purpose, editorial direction, and its other contributors.

The creepy, cringy poolside Observer column by Phil Crossman (February/March issue) about ogling the young women, their bathing suits, and suntan oil was terribly misplaced in today’s The Working Waterfront. That the column was a rerun from some years earlier compounds the error. It sounds like readers weighed in with negative comments this time.

Mr. Crossman—by all accounts a good and community-minded man—did write “An apology and an explanation” with meaningful opening paragraphs from an un-published essay that show he values appropriate behavior and language, and I buy that. But still, someone resubmitted and someone re-ran a column that today is so far off the mark, and also counter to Mr. Crossman’s written values.

Finally, the review that he wrote about a female/male relationship book smacked of a make-up assignment from the penalty box, and I found no sense and no craft in the “review.”

I enjoy well-written Maine humor. And I especially look to The Working Waterfront for purposeful writing that goes somewhere, is relevant, and has a “so what?” for our current day. I expect you receive proposals and pitches from new writers and journalists and hope to see more fresh contributions along the above lines in your newspaper.

Mark Sullivan
Southwest Harbor

Don’t forget the French

To the editor:

Without taking away the thrust of your “Maine’s not-so-clean history on race” story (May issue) I’d make two points.

One is that while Maine is still very white, it might be more appropriate to say it’s 94.3% white, rather than having only 3.3% of minority populations here. I see that the 3.3% figure pops up on a Google search, but that appears to ignore over 2% of multi-racial people.

The distinction is a minor quibble because the overall picture is what you say.

Somewhat more serious, just to flesh out the record, is the omission of the fact that the huge Ku Klux Klan numbers in Maine in the 1920s was driven largely by anti-Catholic feelings, caused by the huge influx of French-Canadian mill workers, with some Irish thrown in as well.

Without the fear of a Catholic onslaught on the Protestant majority, I don’t think the anti-Black, Indian, and Jew principles of the Klan would have been as much of a factor in the Klan fervor.

I’m no skilled historian, but maybe these two observations add a touch of context to the unassailable main points of your article.

Richard Merserau

No oil here

To the editor:

For more than 30 years I have taught classes at the University of Maine in the geology of Maine beaches and coasts and the coastal geology of New England to thousands of students. It appears that the author of the op-ed in the June issue, Carolyn Lambert, never took a geology class.

Her argument, railing against drilling for petroleum off Maine’s coast, is so scientifically naïve it borders on a conspiracy hypothesis.
Petroleum is produced from thick deposits of sediment (sand and mud) and sedimentary rocks derived from sand and mud. In Louisiana, where I once taught, oil companies produce petroleum from carbon-rich sediment delivered by the Mississippi River for millions of years. There is a great deal of fertile organic carbon in the tens of thousands of feet of mud there.

Maine’s coast has granites and metamorphic rocks that formed above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit hundreds of millions of years ago when Europe collided with North America. There was organic matter in some of the rocks, but when extreme high temperatures and pressures were reached, as the rocks melted and were altered, the carbon was changed into the mineral graphite, the material that we use to write with pencils.

Our offshore areas have only thin glacial and younger sediment deposits, along with exposed bedrock like granite. This material does not host petroleum. There is methane in many of our mud deposits, but not enough to consider production.

While I share Rev. Lambert’s disdain for oil production off coastal Maine, it is not going to happen here because we have no petroleum.

Joseph T. Kelley

Sandy’s ruminations

To the editor:

I forget from time to time how good it feels to read Sandy Oliver’s “Journal of an Island Kitchen” column in The Working Waterfront in these questionably evolved times. Thus “My Dumb Kitchen” in the June issue sparks a little fear (How could she say that? Is she done with cooking?) and completely and thoroughly refreshes.

The only electronic device I really, really would like is one that shuts off the cell phone (landlines only), powers down the laptop and television (battery operated radio only), and relies on a wood stove. I think it’s called a power outage and it happens for about four or five hours and then all that stuff comes back on. But at least we got a break.

Keep your pens, pencils, paper, stamps, and envelopes in good supply and The Working Waterfront’s readers will get their dose of SSRI (Sandy’s Selected Rumination Inspirations) free. No prescription required.

Susan Cook

Smart is silly

To the editor:

My husband and I always look forward to Sandy Oliver’s “Journal of an Island Kitchen” column in The Working Waterfront and the one in the June issue, “My dumb kitchen,” really rang a bell.

We are both in our 70s so it is easy to ignore the “smart” technologies here at home. Those varied devices just seem silly, although they also are accompanied by a sense of surveillance that is equally unwelcome in our private space. Like you, we prefer to be the smart entities in our uncomplicated kitchen.

Pat and David Webster
Lyndonville, Vermont

What goes around…

To the editor:

Your Rock Bound column in the June issue of The Working Waterfront brought a memory back. I certainly remember the condos on Central Wharf. They both destroyed my plans and saved my butt.

After service in Vietnam and graduate school immediately after, I took a job with the Portland planning department in 1973. It became a city planner’s dream. The things we did and the private things we supported were dynamic, successful, and rewarding. In 1979, I stepped in as director, but the new city manager had other ideas. As it turned out, we both left service to Portland the same day in 1980 but with him under a gray cloud.

By the mid 1980s, I worked with a development company, mostly repurposing former industrial buildings. We formed some alliances and proposed a major development east of the Maine State Pier that included some worn out industrial buildings, a Grand Trunk rail yard, and withered pilings where piers once stood.

We didn’t have a chance. The Central Wharf condominiums were the red flag for waterfront development and people were against any other similar development. We tried to describe our project as different and far from the working waterfront. Deaf ears. Project was scrapped, with one silver lining.

I had already been concerned about the principals of my company giving in to the various concessions requested by the many regulating agencies. The project’s financial outlook didn’t look healthy before the financial collapse of 1988. After 1988, it would have been impossible. Butt saved.
Interesting how 40 years can change things. Currently, plans are underway for a development on the East End remarkably similar to our 1986 plans.

Brian Nickerson
South Portland

The Working Waterfront welcomes letters to the editor. Please send them to editor Tom Groening at with LTE in the subject line. Letters should be about 300 words and address issues that the newspaper covers. We also print longer opinion pieces, but please clear them first with the editor.