Letter to Editor: Point, counterpoint

To the Editor:

Bar Harbor needs a mechanism to set up a Counterpoint Committee on contentious issues.

A system of point, counterpoint would give you a hard look at both sides of the issue in depth. As it is now, the Town Council seems to appoint committee members who will confirm their ideas. So anyone applying for a committee who is found to be against that idea whether it be berthing piers, parking meters, housing concerns, has little chance of having a seat at the table. To be wholly overlooked is intolerable.

I have attempted five times to get on several different committees this past year. I applied for the Cruise Ship and the Parking and Traffic Committee this spring and I tried to get on the Parking Solutions Task Force, Parking and Traffic Committee and the Cruise Ship Committee last fall. Each time I was denied by the three councilors who sit on the appointments committee, all of whom seem to be pushing for a preconceived outcome.

One of the councilors on the appointments committee last fall was Judy Noonan, who wrote in a letter to the editor in last week’s Islander: “Probably the most frustrating scenario I have seen is when someone is outspoken and critical of a situation and, as a result, is invited to serve on the very committee that could change that situation, yet they refuse to serve.”

Noonan got onto the Town Council in an uncontested election, which further exemplifies why we need a Counter-point Committees as checks and balances against this inevitable participation problem with our form of town government.

Not everyone who volunteers for public office is qualified. It’s the nature of the beast. But the beast can be controlled. The voter needs a full picture of both sides of the issues. We are all in this boat together.

The Charter Commission could fix this human shortcoming by setting up a mechanism that creates a citizen-formed Counterpoint Committee if enough people want one.

The Warrant Committee serves this purpose but allocates only four people to an issue. A special Counterpoint Committee would be open to all citizens and much more expertise on an issue would be availed.

Where their recommendation goes is a decision that the Charter Commission could specify. The Counter-point Committee could simply be an extension of the Warrant Committee with the benefit that more people with knowledge on the subject would be involved.

It would only form if an issue is found to be contentious by a certain number of people. Many times recently this would have stopped the need for citizens petitions and lawsuits.

Jim O’Connell

Bar Harbor

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