TRANSCRIPTS

Belfast Mayor Eric Sanders & George Frangoulis

George Frangoulis...:
Good morning, Belfast. I'm George Frangoulis I'm the host of Village Voices. This is the segment during which we talk with leaders and luminaries here in Belfast. And I have a leader, and a luminary, and a news maker as well. Mayor Eric Sanders.

Eric Sanders:
Hello.

George Frangoulis...:
Thank you, Mayor Sanders, for being here.

Eric Sanders:
Thank you for having me.

George Frangoulis...:
Not at all. It's, it's my honor to have you here. And I know you're a busy person. This happens to be the week when the students have off. It's the February president's week or President's Day-

Eric Sanders:
School vacation.

George Frangoulis...:
School vacation time. So, you're babysitting, I guess. Is that what you're doing?

Eric Sanders:
No, I'm off today. I've work a weird schedule but Piper's with me because school vacation and we got donuts earlier and hanging out, and then my 16 year old, I'm going to take at noon to drive with him for an hour and a half because he's getting ready for his test. So, just dad stuff.

George Frangoulis
Well, that's great.

Eric Sanders:
Yeah.

George Frangoulis...:
You like being a dad?

Eric Sanders:
Yes, very much.

George Frangoulis...:
Oh, that's good.

Eric Sanders:
Very much. It has its challenges.

George Frangoulis...:
It sure does.

Eric Sanders:
But-

George Frangoulis...:
How many children do you have?

Eric Sanders:
Three that I'm aware of, so...

George Frangoulis...:
I've met Sid. I'm sorry. That was a joke, wasn't.

Eric Sanders:
It was a joke. Yes.

George Frangoulis
That's an old joke.

Eric Sanders:
I'm from Missouri so it's-

George Frangoulis...:
Okay.

Eric Sanders:
Sid is my oldest, and then Chase the middle, and Piper's the youngest.

George Frangoulis...:
All right. Well good. Have you lived all your life here in Belfast?

Eric Sanders:
No. No, I lived in New York City from '82 to '98 after I graduated from college in Missouri. And then, I met my wife, Courtney, and we wanted to have kids and raise them in a small town and she didn't want to live in the Midwest where I was from and she wanted to live on the coast.

Eric Sanders:
So, we came up here in '98 in the summer and we looked at 17 houses and we bought one in Bangor. And then, five years later, because Bangor wasn't a good fit for us, in terms of getting to know people. I was working at MBNA and we looked around and we got the only house that we thought we could afford and moved down here in 2004.

George Frangoulis...:
Well great. Great. And you've been a council member here, haven't you, in the city council for a number of years.

Eric Sanders:
Since 2009, and I think it was 2005, I joined the school board because the whole school board had imploded over some budget thing at the Troy Howard school and all lot of the school board quit. So, I said to myself, "I've got kids and we're going to live here." And so, I went down to city hall and very trembly stood in front of the council and volunteered my services for the school board. So, and then from that I did council and now mayor.

George Frangoulis...:
and now mayor. I want to get to that in a minute, but before we do that, you've been involved in the arts in this community as well?

Eric Sanders:
I have. Again, Piper, my youngest, and trying not to embarrass her or anything, but we auditioned together for the Addams Family. I hadn't been on stage since New York in the mid to late nineties, and so I got Lurch, which I thought was perfect. And then, one of the leads broke their ankle or something a week before the show and the other lead decided to defer and wanted to wait. So anyway, with three days notice I took over the lead role and with songs and everything and I've done about, I don't know, 15 or 16 plays since-

George Frangoulis...:
Have you really?

Eric Sanders:
Yeah, in about four years. Love it.

George Frangoulis
And you have been cast to perform in a play that will be performed shortly. I don't know what the dates will be, but it's called Enemy of the People.

Eric Sanders:
Yeah, Ibsen.

George Frangoulis...:
That's coming up.

Eric Sanders:
Yep. April 9th I think it is.

George Frangoulis...:
Okay. Okay. So, we're about a month away from that. And you play the part of the physician?

Eric Sanders:
Yep. Dr. Thomas Stockman.

George Frangoulis...:
Yes. Not the mayor?

Eric Sanders:
Not the mayor.

George Frangoulis...:
There's two leads with the doctor and the mayor.

Eric Sanders:
I was hoping for the mayor, but I wasn't good enough. So, Jason Bannister is going to be the burgomaster.

George Frangoulis...:
All right.

Eric Sanders:
Which is what it's called and it's a wild play.

George Frangoulis...:
Where does it take place?

Eric Sanders:
It takes place in a coastal town in Norway.

George Frangoulis...:
Norway.

Eric Sanders:
And it's in the late 1880s and it's eerily similar to today's society, in terms of the thrust of the conflict of the play between, I don't want to say good and evil, but differing points of views, and in today's society with the way the media is being portrayed by the current president and vice versa, and all the accusations, and fake news, and real news, and facts versus perceived facts. All of that happened apparently 150 years ago as well. And it involves water. If you're talking about Nordic and there are pro Nordic and anti Nordic people.

George Frangoulis...:
We're aware of that, yeah. So-

Eric Sanders:
Timely.

George Frangoulis...:
So, Enemy of the People. The play is almost art imitating life only in reverse of what we might be seeing here.

Eric Sanders:
It is. It is to a point. I first I knew the connection between, say Nordic and... Because the play is about a spa where a doctor determines through analytic analysis that there is poison from a mill, or a tannery, bleeding into the water pipes into a spa.

Eric Sanders:
So, he comes to his brother-

George Frangoulis...:
The mayor.

Eric Sanders:
... the mayor, and determines they're going to need to relay the pipes and that creates a brouhaha because they've invested all this money in the spa and they also don't want people coming to the spa to know that perhaps there's water-

George Frangoulis...:
There's problems, yeah.

Eric Sanders:
There's problems. So, it's a difficult play.

George Frangoulis...:
Yes, it is. Well, I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Eric Sanders:
Good. I'm really, I'm really hopeful.

George Frangoulis...:
Well, thank you for sharing a bit about it with us. Now, let's get onto your role as the mayor of Belfast.

Eric Sanders:
Okay.

George Frangoulis...:
What was the reason you wanted to run for mayor?

Eric Sanders:
Well, I'd been on council 10 years. I had, at the six year mark and at the eight year mark thought about stopping. I'm not what you would call a career politician, I don't think. But it would appear that I am, but I-

George Frangoulis...:
You could have fooled me.

Eric Sanders:
But, Walter Ash ran, I asked Walter if he was going to run two years ago, and he said he thought he'd throw his hat in the ring one more time. So, I deferred to him. And then, Samantha ran and Samantha ran a really good campaign and won the mayor, and then there was turbulence for two years.

George Frangoulis...:
Yes.

Eric Sanders:
So, I keep using that word because that's how I felt and tension.

George Frangoulis...:
Yes.

Eric Sanders:
When one has tension, it doesn't matter where it's coming from, it's in the room.

George Frangoul...:
Right.

Eric Sanders:
And so, I determined that I was going to run for mayor this time because I wanted to lessen the turbulence. I didn't like some of the articles that were being written. I heard the chamber of commerce and business owners were starting to talk about people coming in saying yeah, or not coming in because of Belfast's reputation.

Eric Sanders:
So, I thought, I am an actor, so I do roles. You asked about my role of mayor and that's somewhat how I go through life. And because actors rarely really tell you what they're thinking or doing, but they can portray things. So, I thought I could do a good job doing that.

George Frangoulis...:
Well, I've had many people tell me that your primary mission, although they didn't get it from you, was you were here to calm the waters again.

Eric Sanders:
Yeah, that I don't think that's an unfair analysis.

George Frangoulis...:
Yeah.

Eric Sanders:
I think that we have a brilliant city. I think there are challenges and decisions to be made by the council. I felt comfortable that the council, the five people that are currently on the council, can make decisions and I've largely determined as mayor to work with them to support their decisions as best I can.

Eric Sanders:
If I feel a decision or a rabbit hole that they may be going down is something that's just got crisis written all over it, I will tell them that, but I don't vote unless there's a tie breaker, and I would imagine on anything of importance, all five would be there.

Eric Sanders:
So, I view my role as supporter, counselor, ask me questions and my viewpoint if you want to, and make sure they feel comfortable. I do think that for a long time we had a lot of success in the council in the last 10 years and there have been a lot of changes. There will be more probably, but 2011, I've been on the council two years and things were pretty dark and stark around here.

Eric Sanders:
42 empty storefronts and lo and behold, Front Street showed up out of the blue and said, "Hey, we'd like to get rid of all that stuff and build a shipyard there." So, you never know and you always have to be ready and you always have to be receptive to the possibility of change.

George Frangoulis...:
Well, you've mentioned the Nordic Aquafarms as an issue that's been in front of the citizenry as well as the council. What are some other issues that will be forthcoming that you see?

Eric Sanders:
Well, internally, from the city's point of view, in my view, the largest, biggest decision that we have to make in the next month is the new city manager because Joe is retiring.

George Frangoulis...:
Right.

Eric Sanders:
Be that as it may, as important as a council is, or as ceremonial as the mayor is, the person that runs the city, the city manager job, Joe's done for 13 years, so that's a big decision. Nordic is a big decision, or process, or whatever's going on with it, with courts and stuff, but I think I'm looking out 30 years, I'm not looking out two, and I think if you look back 30 years you can see how different it was. So-

George Frangoulis
Yeah, sure.

Eric Sanders:
Chances are pretty good it's going to be different somehow. We have Tractor Supply, the big box flares its head once in a while. I'm not a big box supporter. I don't really want it in my town. I think Amazon helped kill that.

George Frangoulis...:
Yeah.

Eric Sanders:
But you get taxes, you've got roads, you've got infrastructure. The energy committee has made a significant contribution to the society of Belfast by all of the electricity for the buildings being paid, and refitting, and the new public works. So, there's a million things going on and we have to pay for them.

George Frangoulis...:
I wanted to ask you about a couple of specifics, and they are sort of book-ending each other. One is homelessness in Belfast and the other is unaffordable housing, or affordable housing. How do you look at those?

Eric Sanders:
Well, I'll start with homelessness. I do know there's a lot of people in a lot of groups that are working together and separately. I'd like to see that crystallized on a larger, with city input, larger program where we can feel that everybody who comes at homelessness from different angles feels represented and solutions are found to ease the burden of people that are homeless.

Eric Sanders:
Some people are homeless on purpose, but most aren't. And I think last summer there seemed to be a larger influx of homelessness for the first time. Why? I have no idea, but clearly I feel the city should be involved with that.

Eric Sanders:
Affordable housing. The old public works building on Congress Street, we've determined that's where we're going to build housing, affordable market rate. Those words are hard for us to decide. Is it going to be what they call section eight housing that is as subsidized? I don't know. But that whole area, once the brownfield study has been done, the council's determined to put some significant housing up there.

Eric Sanders:
And then you have a Belfast Yards, which is an open book now for two years, which we have a lot of a lot of decisions to make on that.

George Frangoulis...:
Absolutely. Absolutely. That was one of the other things I wanted to ask you about. We've only got a couple minutes left, Mr. Mayor. We're paying you by the minute.

Eric Sanders:
Oh, I-

George Frangoulis...:
That's why we're cutting this to... No, no. I'm teasing. How would you like to wrap this up? Do we have any last thoughts you'd like to share with the viewers?

Eric Sanders:
Well, I think that we have a great opportunity in front of us. All of us that live in the city, must be counted for, must be accountable to each other. I do think the arts are a huge thing. The Master's Building, Crosby Center, et cetera.

Eric Sanders:
Where is the city going to be in 30 years? And it's a question. I don't want to offer my ideas. I want to hear from citizens. Right? And I think that we all live in the same community. So, there's been a lot of acrimony, a lot of words spoken. Social media is a dangerous weapon, without people meaning it to be. I'd like to see everybody understand how we're all involved in the city continuing its journey, hopefully in a positive track towards the future.

George Frangoulis...:
Very well said. Eric. Folks, you've been watching, and listening to Mayor Eric Sanders, newly elected, only been here a few months.

Eric Sanders:
Yeah, Three or four months.

George Frangoulis...:
Thank you so much for coming aboard, Eric.

Eric Sanders:
Thank you. Thank you for having me.

George Frangoulis...:
It's been my pleasure. And there is so much more to cover. Will you come back again in the future?

Eric Sanders:
Sure.

George Frangoulis...:
All right. Thanks very much.

Eric Sanders:
Thank you.


 

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