Viewpoint: Rolling up our sleeves, together

By Gary Friedmann

The town of Bar Harbor is in the enviable position of possessing the elements of an economic engine that can power a bright and promising future for the citizens of our town and of Mount Desert Island. Our challenge is to rise above personal angst and past hurts and to work together to build a better future.

We are blessed with the unparalleled natural attractions of Acadia National Park and the municipal and commercial infrastructure to host millions of tourists each year. Now we must act cohesively and effectively to manage and direct growth in visitation to enhance life for our residents, workers and guests.

We are struggling to remember that despite our differences, we all want to make this a better place to live. We all want to be able to see families make a living and send their children to good schools here on the island. We all enjoy the beauty of MDI and want to see good stewardship of this birthright.

It seems to me that we’ve lost sight of what holds us together and have instead succumbed to unproductive finger pointing and blame. Every one of the members of the Bar Harbor Town Council deserves nothing less than complete respect and support for taking on a difficult and time-consuming job. Each one of us strives to be fair, to listen responsively and to act in the best interest of the town.

Just as true is the fact that every member of the Warrant Committee and all town boards and task forces are working hard to serve their town conscientiously to the best of their abilities. There are seven councilors and 22 on warrant to assure a broad representation of all points of view. All constituencies must have a voice.

That means we’re not going to agree with each other on every issue, and that we’re going to have to open our minds to a diversity of opinions. Compromise is the stuff of which democracy is made. All of us together are smarter — and stronger — than any one of us.

When we stop questioning the motives of committee members and decision makers and cease impugning their integrity, we are better able to hear what they are saying and seek common ground. That’s why I’ve been working on bringing higher levels of civil discourse to public meetings for the last six years, advocating for tools like the online polling service Polco to engage more citizens in the issues, supporting public comments at council meetings and encouraging citizen input through task forces on the use of the old ferry terminal.

It’s why I’m going to ask the council to stop the request for emails from the warrant’s Subcommittee on General Government and to end the call for a charter commission. The problem isn’t the structure of our town government or the number of people on warrant. It’s the way we’re treating each other.

Let’s tone it down and look for what we like about each other. Let’s enjoy the process of local self-determination and not take ourselves so seriously.

It’s time to roll up our sleeves and sit down together, side by side, to get this job done. There’s a lot of work to do.

Gary Friedmann is serving his sixth year on the Bar Harbor Town Council.

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