Letter to Editor: Working for greater good

To the Editor:

I’m writing in response to a recent letter in this paper concerning criticism of the Charter Commission and its efforts on behalf of the town. Normally I would not respond directly to such correspondence, however the author chose to not limit criticism to Charter Commission’s work but to go farther and cast aspersions on our individual motivations.

I appreciate the passion and opinions of others, even when they differ from my own. However, I cannot tolerate someone suggesting that I or the members of the Charter Commission do not respect the voters/citizens of the town; nothing is farther from the truth.

I encourage the author, and any other member of the public, to discuss their ideas at a meeting of the Charter Commission at a public hearing or with me individually rather than to engage in misleading, inaccurate and inflammatory rhetoric in the newspaper. These are my opinions and I apologize in advance for the length of this letter.

The author quoted a statement that I’ve made on more than one occasion: “I trust our elected officials” and this remains true. Our elected officials include both the Town Council and School Committee who are elected by individual ballot and the Warrant Committee who are elected by slate.

The Charter Commission, while not a standing body of the town, is also an elected body. While the author chose to apply my quote in a manner other than which it was intended; I stand behind it. I trust these people because they are our neighbors, they give of their time, they are dedicated, and they want what we all want: a town that we all can appreciate and enjoy. These members of our community have been duly elected by the people of our town to serve our town; they do so in an admirable manner.

The author goes on, at length, about a suggestion the Charter Commission published months ago and has since moved on from regarding the Town Council having power to make Land Use Ordinance (LUO) amendments. The author is not current and is incorrect in his assertions. The Commission is looking at a mechanism to allow minor, non-substantive, amendments to be made to the LUO by Council.

We are not suggesting that the power to amend LUO be given exclusively to council nor are we suggesting that Town Meeting have this power taken away. Our discussion is based on hearing comments and suggestions from the public. It is also based on our individual desire to find effective methods for the operations of the town while respecting our community.

The author describes the Charter Commission’s work as “radical” and that our recommendations strip the Warrant Committee of its role in our form of government. This is based on a draft report published in September and not current. I encourage everyone to read the Commission’s report that will be published by the end of December to decide if “radical” is an appropriate adjective.

The idea that the Charter Commission does not trust or listen to the voters of the town is simply unfounded. The commission continues to seek input through public comments at meetings, by holding public hearings, engaging in discussions with citizens and through correspondence directed to the commission.

The commission was recently granted approval for an extension to the review process so that an additional public hearing can be held in January. This was in response to citizen input. Please visit the town calendar to learn more about the commission’s upcoming schedule.

Finally, I would like to comment on unpublished comments the Charter Commission has received from other citizens in support of our ongoing work, our efforts to be transparent and include people in our process, and the manner in which our group encourages and listens to feedback. We appreciate all feedback; thank you.

I remind people that we all have the right to think as we wish and share our thoughts; I truly respect this freedom. With this freedom comes responsibility. Part of this responsibility is to express our freedoms in a manner that is respectful of others and hopefully in a manner that is beneficial to the greater good.

Michael Gurtler

Bar Harbor

Charter Commission Chairperson

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