To the Editor,
As we Bar Harbor voters consider nine amendments to the constitution of our town, our Town Charter, I urge caution. The idea of convening a Charter Commission was first raised by the Town Council on Aug. 15, 2017, in opposition to a common sense proposal by the Warrant Committee that the council propose a single charter amendment to the voters providing for individual election of Warrant Committee members. A bare majority of councilors rejected this approach for individually electing Warrant Committee members. More than seven months later, on March 20, 2018, the council proposed a Charter Commission, with Councilor Friedmann voting against it as he noted, “People see this as an attack on the Warrant Committee.”
Four of the nine charter amendments (Articles 2, 4, 7 and 8) seek to minimize the Warrant Committee’s purely advisory role in town governance and to reduce both the information we voters receive on the ballot and the role we voters play in amending our Land Use Ordinance (LUO) and reviewing our $26 million dollar town budget. Why? I attended both public hearings by the Charter Commission, and the vast majority of those who spoke opposed these changes. Two of the few voices in favor of these changes were the town manager, who would be granted increased powers in budgetary matters under Article 7, and the Town Planning Department, which would be granted increased powers under Article 4 to initiate LUO amendments that never need voter approval. Article 2 would deprive the voters of the Warrant Committee’s and other town committees’ recommendations on ballot articles. Article 8 would reduce the Warrant Committee so much in size that it would not have enough members to fully staff its subcommittees.
I wish the majority of the Charter Commission had listened to the voters at public hearing who opposed these changes rather than a handful of town officials who supported these changes. Our Declaration of Independence proclaims our nation’s belief that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Articles 2, 4, 7 and 8 reflect a belief that governments derive their powers from the consent of our governors. Let’s keep our full voting rights and voice we now have as Bar Harbor citizens by voting no on Articles 2, 4, 7 and 8.