BAR HARBOR — Voters here will head to the polls on Tuesday, June 10, to elect three new town councilors. A total of six candidates are vying for the positions, with just one incumbent, Christopher Walsh, on the list.
Longtime council chairman Ruth Eveland and councilor Bob Garland are not running for reelection.
A couple of candidates with past experience on the council, including Jeff Dobbs and Tom Burton, were inspired to run for office after observing some of the turmoil this past year, including the firing of former police chief Nate Young. Others with some experience serving on volunteer committees, including Anne Greenlee and Clark Stivers, are hoping to bring their service to the town to the next level. Retired MDI High School sports coach and guidance counselor Burt Barker, son of long-time town clerk Jean Barker, hopes to serve in the political arena for the first time.
In order to get a sense of where each candidate stands on the issues and why they are running for town council, the Islander asked the candidates to answer a set of questions by email. The three questions were: What are your priorities if elected? What are your thoughts on the turbulent events of the past year, including the firing of the police chief and the resignation of the town manager? And, is it in the town’s best interest to see the ferry terminal redeveloped as a cruise ship pier?
Elections are set for Tuesday, June 10, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the auditorium of the municipal building, on Cottage Street.
Relevant experience: 39 years in public education as a teacher, coach and guidance counselor, with 32 years at Mount Desert Island High School.
Priorities if elected
My first priority if elected is assisting with the hiring of the new town manager. My personal priorities would be to represent the citizens of Bar Harbor. I don’t have a list of issues or personal agenda items and would be focused only on doing the town’s business.
It has been discouraging to watch the negative publicity regarding our town in the last few years. One of my goals for running for town council would be to work with the new town manager, town council, citizens and town employees in a collaborative, supportive manner. I feel it is important to make council decisions in a positive, fair, consistent manner and to hear every voice in our community, including the less vocal ones.
For more than 50 years, the international ferry to Canada was an economic force that was of great benefit to the town. There is no doubt in my mind that redeveloping the property through state, town and private cooperation would be in our best economic interest.
Joseph Thomas Burton III – “Tom”
Occupation: Husband, father, son-in-law and grandfather-to-be
Relevant experience: 2 years on warrant committee, 6 years on town council, 9 years on superintending school committee.
Priorities if elected
My first and foremost priority is to make our representative government more transparent and accessible to the people. The recent past and the Facebook page “Citizens for a Better Bar Harbor” have demonstrated the power of social networking to involve voices from all social strata of Bar Harbor. Establishing an official online presence for the Town to hear from the citizenry will be one suggestion I will make.
The overarching concern for many people is the continued viability of our town as a vibrant, year-round community. Clearly, most businesses here exist to support and mine the tourist trade and visitors to Acadia, but we have been, and need to be, much more than that. The steady erosion of our tax base has been shrinking the available revenue stream, making it increasingly difficult for year-round residents to remain in town. If we hire a planner and reaffirm our relationship with the Bar Harbor Housing Authority, they may be able to help us address the seasonal housing issues, which are eliminating both year-round and affordable housing.
Establishing balance will be a major item for me. Last year the council cut the Conners Emerson school budget by $34,000. They recently approved $2.2 million for municipal building renovations without any bids or a scope of work. The council and warrant committee have been at odds on several issues over the past few years. We need to include all voices and try to build consensus on issues whenever possible.
Bar Harbor needs a dog park. We also need to fund things as a community that people want instead of making them raise the money themselves. It’s great to be able to spend $8 million on a sewer project, but we shouldn’t make parents raise money for playground equipment.
I feel that the issue with our police chief was very poorly handled. It has been and will be costly to the town both financially and harmoniously. A change was long overdue in the town manager position. A smoother transition would have been more desirable, but it’s behind us, and we need to take advantage of the opportunity to make positive progress.
Given the information that I have now, I think using the ferry terminal for cruise ships would be great. As stated above, we need to include all voices in the process and reach the best possible solution for all.
Occupation: Film/video producer. Owner/operator of Dobbs Productions Inc. for 34 years.
Relevant Experience: 15 years on the town council, until 2008. 15 years on the parks and recreation committee, most as chair. 5 years on the cruise ship committee as a citizen at large and on the parking and traffic committee for many years. Presently serving as a board member on the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association. Past chair of the Maine Film Commission and vice-chair of The Maine Film and Video Association.
Priorities if elected
My first order of business is to hire a new town manager who is confident, open-minded and willing to hear from others. He or she should be hands-on regarding all aspects of the town and visible to all sectors of the community. An ideal town manager should be diplomatic in all situations and try to find common ground even in the worst of scenarios.
Next, we should work on restructuring employment contracts so that the budget process could better reflect the combined wishes of the town council, school committee and the warrant committee.
Third, I advocate tearing up our present zoning and creating simplified rules that don’t require an attorney for the simplest of permits.
A fourth priority is bringing to fruition the downtown development district project, which has been on the planning stage for over a decade. Capital improvements to streetscapes could be paid for by taxes levied directly to businesses and by grants available to the district.
Lastly, one thing I would love to see completed in my lifetime is the waterfront master plan. Harborview Park is that last piece.
What happened this winter in Bar Harbor is just an echo of what has been happening on the world stage. Years of suppressed feelings about how the town was being run were triggered by a politically charged event that was televised so that everyone who chose to do so could see the facts for themselves. The rest is history.
The Internet has provided an open forum for those who would otherwise choose to remain silent. It has given the most timid of individuals equal ground with those who are more vocal. All I can say is that free speech and the Internet, whether you personally agree with what was said, have brought us to where we are and we need to fix what most of us feel is somewhat broken, our town.
The town of Bar Harbor should explore with the state and the federal government the potential of the facility. In the end, whatever is done, the ownership and maintenance of the property should reside with the Maine Port Authority.
As we explore the possibility that the development might increase and reposition congestion, we cannot rely on blind faith. All the facts should be weighed, and no stone left unturned to arrive at the appropriate answer. The study, to date, although full of impressive pictures and valid scenarios for its use and financial viability, still leaves many unanswered questions, such as:
What happens to the town’s revenue stream now known as the cruise ship fund? How do we get those wallets and pocketbooks back into town from a terminal out of town without creating another version of the bottleneck we already have down at the pier? How would the visitor experience in spots like Cadillac Mountain be affected by the increased tour bus trips that might result? And, finally, who financially benefits the most?
Occupation: More than 30 years as a biomedical researcher investigating environmental exposures for their possible effects on fertility and reproductive health. Upon retirement, started a second career as a licensed massage therapist.
Relevant experience: Currently serving a second term on the cruise ship committee as vice chair and scientific resource member. Has served on institutional, state and national committees either as member or in leadership positions throughout scientific career.
Priorities if elected
The natural beauty of the island and year-round opportunities to enjoy it through hiking, biking, kayaking and skiing are fundamental to my health and happiness. My priorities as a member of town council will include working towards policies that promote the valuable resources of the island and safeguard the energy and balance of the communities living here.
The firing of the police chief has been contentious. My thoughts are that the evidence was carefully presented, ample discussion followed, and the town council voted. Through it all, the town manager and members of the town council were thorough, fair and open in handling a difficult and multi-faceted personnel matter. Mr. Reed provided ethical leadership; and by doing so, was capable of expecting the same from those he supervised. I encouraged renewal of Mr. Reed’s contract and was disappointed that he felt the need to resign. If elected, my efforts will be dedicated to the process of hiring an observant, experienced and well-reasoned replacement.
The cruise ship industry is moving to larger capacity vessels. The current anchoring off-shore with tendering to harbor docks will eventually work against Bar Harbor as ferrying passengers is limited by time and fuel costs. The extension of the ferry terminal docks would allow passengers to step off the cruise ships and board land transportation to island destinations. This would improve bus congestion as it would move the hub out of town proper.
In reality, the ferry terminal will need to accommodate more than cruise ship traffic to be financially viable. This might be best addressed by welcoming international ferry traffic, cruise ship traffic and local harbor activities, such as fishing, kayaking and recreational gatherings. Going forward, earnest discussions will need to take place concerning purchase price, design and cost sharing at the community, state and international levels.
Occupation: Self-employed carpenter.
Relevant experience: Served eight of past 10 years on the warrant committee.
Priorities if elected
Serving on the council would be another way for me to give back to a town that has given my family so much. I’m running for a very simple, and I think the very best, reason. Many citizens of this town have asked me to do so. I know how important this position will be for the town, especially in the near future. I promise my best effort for the people who live here if I am elected.
Bar Harbor has changed since I moved here in 1982. I’m not sure that the same sense of community exists as when my children were growing up. I consider the health and vitality of our community a priority. I would always have an eye toward community whenever I was asked to vote because in a town where commerce is so very important, a balance between the two is difficult to achieve.
This difficulty makes it even more important that the council receives as much information as possible about what citizens of this town want from their government. I have already begun looking into ways to facilitate communication between myself and the people.
A lack of communication surely exacerbated the recent turmoil within town government. I don’t have enough information to make declarative statements about what happened, but I will say that I found both Mr. Reed and Mr. Young to be amicable, amenable and competent. I never had any problems with either man when I was able to talk things over with them. I would have preferred to see things talked through without all of the vitriol that ended in their leaving. That is water under the bridge. The best thing we can all do is to pick up the pieces and begin again, talking things out in a reasonable fashion as we go.
This question is difficult. There is so much to consider. I will say that I’d rather the state own the property, at least in part, than see it go to a private entity. If a pier were developed in a general way that would allow for a wider variety of uses, not just by cruise ships, I think the town might be better off. Certainly the community would be.
Relevant experience: Incumbent Bar Harbor Town Councilor, 3 years.
Priorities if elected
To maintain or to actually lower taxes. This is one of the main priorities of anyone in public service. The current council has certainly worked to keep tax increases to a minimum. I feel that it can be, and will be, possible to lower taxes in the next fiscal year without compromising the way of life we’ve come to know.
I’d like to make it a priority that the projects the tax payers have approved go forward to completion smoothly and on time. Finally, it’s a must for whoever wins this election that they work on getting a qualified planner in place. We need a qualified town manager in place, one who will come to love this town as we all do, govern accordingly, reassess our needs, wants and must-haves, and present an appropriate budget for completing all of that.
I was one of two councilors who voted to overturn the former town manager’s decision to fire our police chief. I felt that with absolutely no solid evidence (e.g., arrest, breathalyzer, etc.) to support the reason of termination that he should have been reinstated. It would have avoided what is becoming a costly lawsuit that could ultimately cost the taxpayers. Although the town’s insurance policy covers a majority of the cost, we will certainly feel it when the premiums are due. Beyond that, it felt personal to me. This termination wasn’t about any certain incident; it took place as a way to get rid of the chief. Had solid evidence been presented at the reinstatement hearing, I would have voted accordingly.
In regards to the resignation of the town manager, I understand that there was and is discontent in the town, but it didn’t come to voting to fire or not to renew him. It was certainly his right to resign his position. I wish him well on his future endeavors.
I waffle about this question. I would like to see this parcel kept in public ownership. That being said, if we develop a cruise ship port, we surely will become a larger cruise ship destination.
With more and more people using Mount Desert Island and Acadia as an escape from the cities and to relish the solitude that our natural resources offer, I feel that we will lose them to other national parks to escape the crowds.
No one can say that Bar Harbor isn’t congested on cruise ship days. With larger ships, more people and more buses to take them on road tours, I worry about losing our local habitat and flavor. I worry about the impact on our environment. The business community, including myself, has grown to depend on cruise ships. Bar Harbor is a big seller on a cruise ticket. People want to visit.
I’m happy to have them tender their guests off of their ships. Do we want more than what we currently have? I think sometimes we have to stand back, take a look around and ask the question, “When is enough enough?”
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