Bar Harbor’s Cruise Ship Committee was designed to get a diverse group around the table. Debates about the composition of the committee are appropriate, but it’s first important to remember that the group advises the Town Council and has no decision-making authority here.
This year, the composition has been tweaked, replacing a fishing industry representative with a broader maritime industry representative. A seat for someone with working knowledge of the cruise industry in Maine was added after a longtime committee member who had represented CruiseMaine left that organization.
It’s true that the fishing industry, which might lean on the side of limiting cruise ships, no longer has a dedicated voice, and that the maritime industry seat is currently filled by a harbor pilot who works with the cruise lines. But the fishing seat was difficult to fill and often sat empty.
The committee includes representatives from groups involved with and impacted by the cruise industry in different ways. It includes nonresident employees of organizations with a clear financial stake in the continued success of cruise operations — because they’re the ones who know how the operation works — as well as resident members-at-large and owners of businesses not connected to the cruise ship industry, some of whom may prefer to reduce or eliminate cruise visitation here.
This is by design. The idea is to gather relevant information and recommend action to the council so they can strike a balance between these interests. But the decision makers are the councilors, and they must be qualified voters, and therefore residents here. Residents concerned that there is too much outside influence can attend meetings, apply for a seat on the committee or run for council.