By Mary Galperin
I went to the Bar Harbor Town Hall hearing on July 19. It was about the very controversial topic of cruise ships. I go back and forth on my position on cruise ships. So, I went to hear more about it. It was a great opportunity for free speech.
Many local business owners spoke to their long history in the community and how they have made a living here over time – in some cases, over a few generations.
How wonderful that this town has proved so fruitful for them. They have many reasons to be proud of their accomplishments and what they have done to save our town from an economic collapse dating back to the 1980s and before.
But there were also disparaging remarks made about “summer residents/snowbirds” and retired people who also reside here.
It was apparent to me some who spoke implied their needs should be more valued. They implied they were gold star or preferred class citizens due to their deep roots in the community and their business endeavors.
Now, I have heard negative comments before about not really being from here. So, such comments are no surprise or even offensive. But in the context of this meeting, I felt it was being inferred that newer residents and/or retired residents are not “us.” They are really outsiders. This I do take issue with.
Here’s my story. I vacationed here many years and eventually retired here. I even bought a property before I moved here permanently. It was not a vacation rental. I paid real estate taxes on the property before it became my permanent residence. At that time, I supported the town’s coffers without using many services. Some might say I subsidized services for fulltime residents.
After becoming a permanent resident, I have given many volunteer hours to various community groups and have given financial support to local charities. My story is not unusual. I have many friends with a similar history.
All that being said, you should know I love this community and aspire to be an asset to it.
So I have a question. Why was I valued when I was a tourist, but now that I actually live here and vote here, why am I not liked as much? My taxes continue to be assessed and paid in the same manner as everyone else. My vote is equal to everyone’s vote. (I assume the “one man, one vote” rule still applies.)
I have many friends who have chosen to become residents here in their later years. Even though this community is changing over time (as all communities do), it is not necessarily a bad thing. I choose to believe town government values and respects ALL residents with equal weight without regard to longevity or how we make a living. New resident or old resident, business owner, employee or retired resident – we are all the current community.
The challenge is some new needs and values have been introduced into the community conversation. I know it is impossible to please everyone. However, it is necessary to value everyone’s concern with equal weight.
This is a small community where deep-rooted personal friendships and relationships can complicate the need to be fair and impartial to all. I understand our town officials bear a heavy task in carrying out their duties. It is a hard job, especially in these changing times. For that reason, I thank everyone for listening and considering my viewpoint.
Mary Galperin lives in Bar Harbor.