Bangor residents on Monday night demanded the city cut ties with a prominent concert owner who pleaded guilty to domestic abuse.
Nearly 20 people showed up at a Bangor City Council meeting to criticize the city’s decision to sign a 10-year contract with Waterfront Concerts owner Alex Gray.
“No one is arguing that Waterfront Concerts [isn’t] a huge economic boon for the area,” Andrea LaFlamme, 30, told councilors at the meeting. “All we’re saying is that we don’t want to do business with Alex Gray, and I think we can have it both ways,” she said, adding that Gray was quickly becoming a “liability.”
This is the first time Bangor residents have publicly condemned the city’s deal with Gray, spurred in part by a letter written last month by his ex-girlfriend, Erica Cole, who brought the charge against him. Cole called upon Bangor and Portland officials to stop doing business with Gray.
“The contract that the city has with Gray brings in millions of dollars per year. So where’s the line?” LaFlamme asked. “What amount of money justifies the city entering into a contract with someone [like Gray]? Is the beating of one woman easier to excuse than several?”
Bangor officials have repeatedly said they cannot legally sever their contract with Gray, though several council members have said they wish they could work with a different promoter.
“I want everybody to know that you’ve been heard,” City Council Chairman Ben Sprague told those who spoke. “We will be revisiting some of these ideas that were brought up.”
The city inked a 10-year contract with Waterfront Concerts in September, after the misdemeanor charge had been brought against Gray but before he pleaded guilty.
Gray last month presented to the council a plan to build a permanent structure at the outdoor venue, which would require extending the contract by 20 to 30 years. The city is still in early talks about the proposal and Sprague said he didn’t know how the public’s response on Monday will affect negotiations.
Earlier Monday the council’s three women, Councilors Clare Davitt, Sarah Nichols, Laura Supica called on Waterfront Concerts to rethink having Gray as the face of the company.
“It is high time for Waterfront Concerts to think hard on whether it wants someone guilty of domestic violence representing its brand and presence in this community,” they said in a statement, which was later followed by a separate Bangor Daily News OpEd.
Einstein Hickman, 33, a clinical therapist, said the council had the power to “make decisions to represent the morals and values of its people. The city council chose not to do that.”
LaFlamme said she thinks Bangor and Portland are in an appropriate position to pressure Waterfront Concerts into severing ties with Gray, and urged councilors to take that step.
But Councilor David Nealley called the criticisms “false,” suggesting that those who criticized the council didn’t know all the facts of the city’s negotiation with Gray.
“I just think it’s sort of reckless to be suggesting that we’ve done something that was less than thou in serving the people of Bangor,” he said.
Amy Blackstone, a sociology professor at the University of Maine said if the city is going to continue working with Gray, “Let’s be certain that Alex Gray’s values align with the city’s before we go even further down the path of a partnership that we find it even more difficult to extricate ourselves from.”
She suggested the city request that Gray to demonstrate how he supports gender equality in his company, and “require that he put mechanisms in place to prevent and respond to gender abuse and sexual harassment when it happens at his business.”
In Portland on Monday night, a large crowd of residents attended the city council meeting, where councilors considered in a first reading whether to end contract negotiations with Gray, but no discussion was held.
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