Letter to Editor: Next steps

To the Editor:

This opinion is written for several purposes related to the recent passage of citizen initiatives Articles 4 and 5 in Bar Harbor.

First, deepest thanks to the voters who supported these initiatives, and in so doing exercised their right to shape the kind of town in which they wish to live.

Second, sincere recognition and respect to those who voted the other way. Everyone participating engaged in the democratic process, a not-universal right and system through which everyone wins.

Given a clear election outcome such as occurred last week, it is important that everyone in the community recognizes their shared interest in respecting the voters’ decisions and working together going forward.

Next, some concrete expectations as to what passage of these initiatives should mean in practice.

Regarding Article 4 (only citizens voting on town boards, committees, taskforces, etc.), it is expected that all work products, plans, recommendations, etc., from all town groups will carry with them the numerical vote by which the group came to their conclusion (as is routinely done with most town groups today, e.g. Town Council, Warrant Committee, Design Review Board, etc.).

The total number of such votes must be no more than the number of local voters who are members of these groups, and these identifications should be part of the public listing of each group’s membership.

Reference to or use of any group work product not reporting and based on such a formal vote would be inconsistent with the recent voters’ decision and ground for legal challenge.

Regarding Article 5 (no berthing of large cruise ships and limits on pier lengths), voters have spoken that they do not want unrestricted commercial development of our unique waterfront.

Town officials as well as private individuals and entities should therefore strive to work within the mandated limits, rather than continuing to bemoan or misstate the restrictions so entailed.

If a project has community support, a way will be found. But limitations have been enacted by popular vote, and must be respected.

Finally, we should all recognize that our current system of local governance has again been shown to allow clear expression of citizen opinion and decision-making.

It would be very unfortunate (and grounds for vigorous opposition) if the present town charter commission attempted to limit or eliminate the Warrant Committee or the citizen initiative mechanism. Let us all accept and rejoice in our irreplaceable system of local participatory democracy.

Charles Sidman

Bar Harbor

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