During the last few months, we’ve reported extensively on the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford, currently under construction and scheduled to come online early next year. When completed, it will serve as a staging area for Cape Wind and other offshore wind turbine projects. But recently, state and local officials have found themselves at odds over what to call the terminal. Locals thought it would be the “New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal”, but state officials have other ideas. It seems like a small thing, but for New Bedford officials and residents, it’s a fight worth having.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell first noticed the name change in a press release announcing that Cape Wind would use the terminal for its 130-turbine project.
“The press release characterized the name of the terminal as the Massachusetts Marine Commerce Terminal. And we thought, oh, maybe that’s a typo, because nobody had called us,” Mitchell said.
Up until then, the name “New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal” had appeared on countless press releases, brochures, and on the website of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which manages the project. But almost overnight, it became the “Massachusetts Marine Commerce Terminal,” then the “South Coast Marine Commerce Terminal.”
“The name change was really not just an affront to the city’s brand, but also the city’s stature,” said Mitchell. “New Bedford is thinking bigger these days, it is playing bigger these days, and for reasons that were never explained to us – still haven’t been explained to us – the State decided to strip the name New Bedford from the terminal.”
As of right now, it’s being called the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford, which may or may not be enough to satisfy opponents of the change. New Bedford’s City Council drafted a resolution objecting to the state’s sudden action. That prompted a letter from Governor Deval Patrick to the Council, in which he states that Mayor Mitchell continues to, quote, “misrepresent the actions or intent of this Administration,” un-quote. Mitchell disagrees.
“All I have said publicly is that I object to the name change. Period. There’s no misrepresenting, there’s nothing to be misrepresented. I’m expressing an opinion, which is that the name should be New Bedford,” Mitchell said.
Maeve Bartlett, Secretary of the Mass. Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said she didn’t expect the backlash that quickly came from New Bedford.
“We were all very surprised at how concerned people were. But, you know, the people in New Bedford are proud, and justifiably proud of their port. And we understand that,” Bartlett said.
The facility has never been officially named by the State.
“That is what the Legislature is charged to do, and I’m sure they’re gonna take that up and come up with the official name,” Bartlett said.
State Senator Mark Montigny has introduced a bill to do just that - officially name the facility the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal. And, he says, he has a commitment from Governor-elect Charlie Baker to sign the bill if it gets approved. Montigny says New Bedford has undergone a renaissance over the last 15 years, and the city has taken great pains to re-brand New Bedford’s image.
“We’ve got that re-branding happening. Now this $100-million project comes along. Why wouldn’t we say the New Bedford Commerce Terminal? It’s more than symbolic to us,” said Montigny.
Montigny considers both Mayor Mitchell and the Governor close friends, and that’s made it harder to act as a go-between in helping to settle the issue.
“I think the project itself is so important, and the renaissance of the city is so clear, that we’ll get through this. I’m probably not as ginned up and excited as some because I see it as resolvable,” he said.
Montigny’s bill most likely won’t be acted upon before the next formal Legislative session, which begins in January of next year. He says a Legislative vote is the best way to settle the naming issue once and for all, so that everyone can re-focus their attention on the benefits the terminal is expected to bring to the region.