Posted by Lagniappe | Jul 15, 2020 | Letters to the Editor
I am writing in response to Mr. Howell Raines’ op-ed and his follow up Letter to the Editor, referencing the Fairhope waterfront. First, let me say Mr. Raines’ reputation precedes him. In 2003, Mr. Raines and the New York Times parted ways after a scandal that resulted in his dismissal. Now his commentary on the waterfront grant in Fairhope looks like, once again, he may be up to his old tricks.
Let’s be clear: This is a strictly political move that has nothing to do with the waterfront. By peppering his commentary with political comments and then voicing his “conclusion,” Mr. Raines made this issue political. “Desperation” and “imaginary problems” exist all right, but they do not fall on the shoulders of Mayor Wilson. This project is not the mayor’s plan; it is the citizens’ plan and always has been. The burden falls on the shoulders of the worst council to ever sit in Fairhope’s council chambers.
A flyer that Mr. Raines is circulating also has many false statements, just like the commentary. The flyer is a political vehicle with several flat tires. First, the bluff is not going to be graded away. Second, the assertion that “the plan will deny access to the entire area for many months” is likewise false. Mr. Raines claims the beach area will not work, which is patently untrue. The Grand Hotel has a beach design by the same engineers working on this project. At 77 years old, perhaps Raines doesn’t want a beach, but many families and kids heartily disagree.
If Mr. Raines’ motivation is to confuse the general public and create a political issue, then he has done a good job. However, he shows no compassion for ADA requirements or the individuals depending on ADA specifications. His concern would prevent any additional parking on Scenic 98 running parallel to the park — which would be the access point for wheelchairs. There are residents who live along the so-called “bluff” who do not want any more tourists or locals in their front yards, and Mr. Raines may be representing them, but certainly not the citizens of Fairhope.
Mr. Raines did not mention that this is the first infrastructure project on the waterfront in 50 years. His claims of a “historic bluff being destroyed” is pure fantasy. Ecor Rouge Bluffs, about two miles north, are in Montrose. Raines’ “historic bluff” is a cutback left after the lower park was built many, many years ago. It is unusable property covered with kudzu. What is proposed is a 5 percent grade, ADA compliant walkway, safe for disabled veterans and citizens to reach the lower park.
Mr. Raines admitted he was six weeks late even reading about the project and never went to a meeting.
Likewise, he never addressed the City Council; never responded to the survey that 570 Fairhope citizens participated in; never said a word to the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council; never spoke to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; and never said a word to the Department of the Treasury.
What he did was write a poison pen letter with the political intent of satisfying the status quo. He has alluded that the ink is drying on the contract for the waterfront project, which again is false. Mayor Wilson has pledged to the citizens of Fairhope that “citizen engagement will continue and everyone will have the opportunity to participate in the waterfront plan.”
Mr. Raines, please attend meetings so you can understand what is really happening. And check your sources. This has been a serious problem for you in the past.
Francis Paul Ripp
Paul Ripp is the founder of the not-for-profit consumer organization The Ripp Report and the “Backstory Podcast,” covering politics and ATTENDING THE MEETINGS in Fairhope for 16 years.