Character of community

In social media posts and casual conversations concerning politics, a common complaint is that government is too distant from “the people.”

It’s an easy complaint to make. Pinpointing specific examples, meanwhile, is actually quite difficult.

Most often, that point is the last refuge of argument on the part of someone who disagrees with a particular decision or policy, even following a full and clearly decisive open vote. When all else fails, do not graciously accept defeat – impugn the integrity of the process.

That kind of attitude recalls another old adage that holds that citizens in a participatory democracy can be part of the problem or part of the solution. And in Bar Harbor right now, after a long and contentious town meeting season, there are a wealth of opportunities to be part of the latter.

Currently, there are nearly 30 positions on boards and committees, ranging from the Planning Board and Cruise Ship Committee, to the Task Force on Aging and the Conservation Commission, being advertised in recent issues of the Islander as needing volunteers.

The running of any municipality, even one as geographically compact and well-organized as Bar Harbor, is an extraordinarily complicated task. No single individual, no single group, no single political philosophy can do it alone. It takes people, lots of them, to ensure that things run smoothly. Creating a firm foundation requires all those who want to make a positive difference in the community to step up.

While, with few exceptions, the positions do not come with a stipend, they hold other rewards. Serving on local boards and committees provides the perfect opportunity to discover how local governance really works. It also is a great way to get to know more of your neighbors and to arm yourself with knowledge you can use to help dispel myths and misconceptions about how things do, or do not, get done.

Currently, there are numerous vital issues and projects on the table in Bar Harbor that will determine the character of the community for decades to come. It’s going to require a broad spectrum of participation and public input to make sure these issues are addressed in a positive manner. Take a look at the list in the newspaper, check out the openings online at and ask yourself how you might best be able to contribute to making Bar Harbor a better place to live.

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