BAR HARBOR — Five candidates are running for two seats on the Town Council here in the June 14 election. The Islander asked each of them why they are running and what they see as the major issues.
This is Hochman’s second time seeking a spot on the council; last year, he ran for council unsuccessfully as a declared write-in candidate.
He began to get involved with town government two years ago, he said, when the proposed elementary school budget included reducing hours for a music teacher position. He began attending meetings and was nominated for the Warrant Committee for the following year. He also has attended nearly every council meeting for more than a year.
“I enjoyed serving on the Warrant Committee,” he said. “You really learn a lot about the budget process and land use changes. You learn about how those work and how much thought goes into it.”
He is the chair of the Communications Technology Task Force, which recommended this year that the town do an engineering study for building a town-owned fiber-optic network to connect municipal buildings.
Hochman said he hopes to draw attention to the needs of the year-round community, such as housing and infrastructure concerns. He knows families who have had to move away because they lost their year-round rental, he said.
“Summer tourism is great for everyone. It brings revenue to the town, and it helps us all live here. But there are a lot of things that seem to get missed out on while we’re focusing on the big hotels,” he said. Yeah, we have a parking problem, but it’s only a few months out of the year, and it really doesn’t affect the year-round residents in the winter.
“We all are paying an equal share of property taxes, but there’s this notion that the people and businesses who are downtown get a lot more focus than those people who are in Town Hill and the non-business owners.”
He notes that businesses are taxpayers, too, “even those of us who don’t own our building – we’re paying in to the town as well.”
Hochman grew up in Bar Harbor. He and his wife Angel own the Trailhead Café and have been in the coffee shop business since they returned from living in New York City in 2004. They have had two children in the schools and are active volunteers with the MDI High School Drama Department. Hochman serves on the boards of the Summer Festival of the Arts and Acadia Community Theater.
Involvement in town government is new to Liscomb, but, he said, “isn’t that what government is supposed to be about? It’s supposed to be about representing the populations, not about experts or politicians.
He grew up in Bar Harbor and recently retired here after living in Pennsylvania and Southern Maine.
“I’ve got plenty of time,” he said, “and I like to study the issues and bring myself up to speed on the pertinent facts. If somebody’s willing to give you their opinion or their idea, you listen to that. Then you come to a position that lets you sleep at night.”
He said when he hears people lament about Bar Harbor going in the wrong direction, he sometimes thinks, “They have a different memory of Bar Harbor than I do. I mean, I remember Bar Harbor as being not this nice. The Bar Harbor Club was an abandoned building. The Golden Anchor was a New Jersey motel, etc.”
“I understand you have to tread lightly, that people tend to look at the past through rose-colored glasses. But I think the town is headed basically in the right direction.”
He thinks the current council has been effective and works together well. “It’s a hard job,” he said. “No matter what decision you make, there’s gonna be somebody that’s unhappy with it.”
Liscomb said the perception that businesses and non-businesspeople are at odds is problematic. “They’re both important to the town. The town has to be viable to business. It just has to be kept that way. We also have to make sure the non-business owner has an equal voice. I think there’s people who feel that businesses in town, and the decisions that the businesspeople on the council make, cost them taxes. It’s a fine balance there.”
He supports the ferry terminal plan, he said, and does not yet have a firm position on the parking garage proposal. “If we did nothing, though, the parking issue as it stands is a problem for locals.”
Any decision that involves the town spending money, he said, needs careful scrutiny because “every time a taxpayer pays their taxes, they’ve traded a portion of their life for that money.”
Liscomb’s late wife, Betty, was involved in politics. “She was a political animal,” he said. “So she’d have been thrilled that I’m running.”
This is MacCulloch’s first foray into local politics.
“This is where my roots are,” the 23-year-old recent college graduate said. “I’m not going anywhere. I would love to be that voice for the younger people in this community.”
He may have some insights that could help as the town works on attracting more young people and families to live here year-round, he said.
“I know people my age who do want to stay in this area – there are all sorts of debate about housing and year-round jobs.”
He went to elementary and high school here. “I think that our education at MDI is pretty impressive. I also think it’s important to have activities for young people, so I’m very happy that the skate park is going to be done soon.”
As the manager of the Cadillac Mountain Sports North Face and Patagonia stores, MacCulloch said he sees the town’s seasonal parking problem up close.
“Parking is an efficiency thing. And right now, it is not at its most efficient. But the way the parking garage is proposed, I don’t think it is the right way to go. In my opinion, it would just detract from the beauty of the town.
“I like big hotels. I like that they bring people here, because that stimulates the economy. It’s a good thing.
“I don’t like that you can have X amount of dollars and buy as much property, including parking property, as you want. I think a lot of problems of parking come from hotel parking lots only serving those hotels.”
He supports the proposal for the former ferry terminal to be used as a cruise ship pier.
“Cruise ship people are here for a day, they’re on their feet, they’re not taking up parking spaces, they’re not in our way. They spend money in our town, and I’m all for them. I’ve been sailing in Frenchman Bay eight years, and they’re not in the way in terms of recreational water use.”
MacCulloch taught sailing in the Bar Harbor Yacht Club/YMCA program for seven years. He graduated from the University of Southern Maine, where he studied biochemistry and business. He enjoys the outdoor sports community at Cadillac Mountain Sports and is an avid mountain biker, hiker and paddle boarder.
He was summonsed by police Saturday for allegedly moving a campaign sign for opponent Nate Young at the intersection of Eden Street and West Street. See related story on page 4.
Paradis is running for his fourth three-year term. He has served 10 years on the council, beginning with a one-year term to fill a vacancy.
He thinks the council has been working together well, and hopes that continues whether or not he is re-elected.
“Remember that it’s a team, and it’s got to act like a team.”
When the council makes a decision he disagrees with, he makes a point to respect it, he said. “You’ve just got to say, ‘That’s what we decided,’ and move on.”
Paradis said he is proud that close cooperation with state and federal government has helped move forward projects like the planned Route 3 reconstruction and the ferry terminal. He also is proud of the process that led to Town Manager Cornell Knight coming to work here.
The large hotel companies here are important constituents along with smaller businesses and residents he said.
“I look at it as, they’re taxpayers. It’s like your best customer. You can’t treat your best customer any different than your worst customer, because if your best customer leaves, you’re screwed.
“Critics of that want the town government not to be ‘in the hotel companies’ pockets,’ to use their language. But they want us to be in their pockets,” he said. “I don’t see that as any different.”
He hopes the town can partner with Ocean Properties, for example, on a parking garage downtown because neither the town nor the hotel company has enough land to build a parking garage like the one proposed, he said.
He hopes the town can encourage small business. “The big guys are always going to be successful,” he said. “I really like to see little guys successful.”
Paradis was one of the councilors who voted in 2014, after a public hearing, to uphold the manager’s decision to terminate then-Police Chief Nate Young.
A formal complaint earlier this year alleged that Paradis and Councilor David Bowden had directed a town employee improperly. The council’s decision not to investigate the complaint is being challenged in court.
Paradis and his wife Beth own Paradis True Value hardware store, which his parents opened in 1972. He and Brian Shaw own the Bogue Chitto subdivision on Route 3. He grew up in Bar Harbor and served in the Coast Guard for five years.
Former Bar Harbor Police Chief Nate Young is running for a seat on the Town Council for the first time.
“The council is elected to serve the people and that’s what I would do,” he said. “I’ve lived here, I’m a lifelong resident. I know the people.
“I understand the operations of the town and its needs. And the need to strike a balance … . We are a tourism community. The lifeblood of the tax base happens to be business and residential. So I’m not anti-business, by any standards.”
“We’re gonna do open government,” he said. The council needs to assure the citizens that they’re doing things in open sessions. I realize that meetings need to move; however, if the decision is already made prior to showing up, it doesn’t send the signal that you have seven people making this decision together.”
He said the current council has been operating well in this regard. “Continuing that is what’s important,” he said.
When he was a town employee, Young was sometimes frustrated by perceived micromanagement from the council. “So if a department head has made some recommendation, it’s not up to an individual councilor who has no expertise in the field to override that decision without justification.”
He said multiple studies by consultants on the same issues have been expensive and unnecessary.
“There’s no sense to continue to have studies on top of studies. That seems to be a common thread that goes on here. A study is already paid for and shelved, and yet they commissioned another one.”
He said a parking deck or parking garage should be considered for the ferry terminal property. “We need to explore other possibilities as opposed to just the backyard.”
Young is currently involved in a lawsuit against the town, seeking to be reinstated at the Bar Harbor Police Department. He was fired by then-Town Manager Dana Reed in January of 2014. The town charter prohibits councilors from “holding any other town office or town employment.”
“If and when my case progresses, I would have to make that decision when the time comes,” he told the Islander earlier this spring. “My legal process has taken a long time, but I’m patiently waiting.”
“I don’t have an axe to grind,” he said this week.
He is currently working as a property manager, caretaker and electrician. He said he and his ex-wife own a 49 percent stake in the Comfort Inn in Ellsworth. David Witham owns the other stake.