State senator Dennis Damon - dubbed "Senator Dumb'un" for his studied silences upon vital ecological issues facing Maine's Penobscot Bay fisheries from port sprawl - occupies a special place of dishonor in the pantheon of Sears Island Sellers-Out that appears on occasion on this blog
Listen to Senator Damon supporting Maine coastal fisheries habitat protection and restoration at the March 19, 2008 hearing of the legislature's Marine Resources Committee. Then listen to Damon two months later at a meeting of the MDOT's Sears Island Joint use Planning Committee supporting construction of a container port on Sears Island, (right in Penobscot Bay's top fish nursery). Two-faced?
Perhaps. For Damon has taken to heart Public Law 27 7 An Act Regarding the Management and Use of Sears Island, which (unconstitutionally) confers upon the Legislature's Transportation Committee the power of final approval or disapproval over any change of use of Sears Island - an executive power granted by Maine's Founding Parents to the Executive Branch.
Senator Damon has used this unconstitutional Law 277 to lead the Transportation Committee on a rollercoaster ride, first imposing on November 18, 2008 binding conditions on MDOT forbidding the agency from signing a conservation easement agreement with Maine Coast Heritage Trust, until a container port received its permits to build and operate on Sears Island, but then , on January 13, 2009, pressuring that Committee - many members freshman legislators bewildered by the issue - into reversing its earlier unanimous 11/18/08 vote, and voting instead to waive the restriction on inking The Deal (above) that they'd earlier imposed.
What was the quid pro quo? What did the Silent Senator ask for and receive during those private meetings with the governor to which he admits having after the November 18th vote that actually saved Sears Island and before the January re-vote that put it again at risk . Meetings so private that the co-chair of the committee, Representative Mazurek of Rockland was left out of the wheeling and dealing. Let alone the rest of the committee members!
What was enough to get Senator Damon to switch not only his vote, but also to shove reversal of the unanimous vote through the members of the Legislature's latest transportation committee when it convened for the first time in January 2009. Unknowable, for while he is willing to hold forth on his own script. What irresistible plum, what pork did Governor Baldacci successfully wave before the Dumb One?
Not content with his own silence, Sentor Dumb'un muzzled the citizens, repeatedly turning down requests by concerned Mainers for permission to speak to the assembled legislative members of either committee about Sears Island. Nay, the public was already represented by Sierra Club and an ex-Earth First!er turned ENGO president
Interestingly, Senator Damon was oft to be seen with former Earth First! activist turned muzzler-of-NGO's Jimmy Freeman of Verona Island, (photo) who achieved his own peculiar renown for stifling the historic opposition to dismembering Sears Island, including the Maine Green Independent Party, the Native Forest Network- Gulf of Maine region, the Maine Earth First! clan. [Note: the Maine Green Independent Party has since removed Mr. Freeman from its leadership, and now takes a public stand against the Sears Island port plan and its mitigation scam!]
But from 2004 until that blissful MGIP moment, thanks to Jimmy's masterful efforts, (including intelligence gathering on activists for the Governor, an offer to disrupt an upcoming antiport demo, and at least one death threat), none of the three NGOs raised the slightest of murmurs of concern, let alone dissent, leaving a ragtag pack of grassrooters struggling year after year to hold the island free from development.
This while Mr. Freeman, now president of a new well-funded 501(c)(3) called Friends of Sears Island ( FOSI is jokingly known around the bay as FOPSI - Friends of Part of Sears Island), in the company of Sierra Club representative Joan Saxe, and Steve Miller of Iszlesboro Islands Land Trust, officially represented the public interest in the negotiations over Sears Island with the shipping industry and MDOT.
Yet without ever consulting that public they were tapped to represent, Joan, Steve and Jim abandoned the public demand to pierce the illegal causeway (a necessity for fish and shellfish restoration). Together, they assented when the industriocrats demanded hundreds more acres of wild wetland western bluff of the island and consensed with Industry to exempt their island splitting plan from environmental review under federal transportation law. With Friends like these, Sears Island hardly needs enemies!
One hope and prays the Maine Superior Court will shortly relieve the Transportation Committee of the burden of implementing PL 277, by the simple expedient of declaring the law in violation of the Maine Constitution's Article III Distribution of Powers.
Meanwhile, over at the marine resources committee, Damon has blocked all requests to testify concerning the habitat of the fish the committee regulates, claiming that the food, habitat and reproductive success of the fishes that the marine sources committee regulates "are not a concern of the committee."