Candidate challenges 'boys club,' says council should answer questions
Rockland — Louise MacLellan-Ruf said she is running for City Council in hopes of making it more responsive to residents.
"I am running because I think it's time, basically, to be able to go to the city or go to the council and ask a question and receive an answer," she said in an interview Sept. 25.
"I have gone to council and have spoken many, many times, and have asked very direct questions about various events that have happened, and received no answer."
She said the only way to have any power or get any answers is to become a member of City Council. She hopes to help the council be more inclusive of the residents and taxpayers.
She described the council as a "good old boy's club," noting Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson is the only female voice.
"It might be time for some new blood," MacLellan-Ruf said.
MacLellan-Ruf lives on Pacific Street in Rockland's South End. She is one of three candidates seeking two seats on the council in November. Also running are incumbent Larry Pritchett and former councilor Harold "Hal" Perry.
Her career was as a therapist and social worker in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She now has her own online business, "Louloos," selling bathroom accessories.
She has been an active volunteer in the city since 2006. She has served on the Harbor Management Commission and the Harbor Trail Committee.
MacLellan-Ruf got her start in city politics when she helped organize neighbors in the South End to oppose a plan to pave over and create a parking lot on the green space at Sandy Beach. She said the residents had been left out of the discussion and plans going into the project. She started a petition to stop it and spoke before the council about the community's concerns. Ultimately, the residents were successful, and Sandy Beach is a park today.
She was in the news in 2010 asking the City Council to increase the fees paid by large cruise ships using the city, as part of her role on the Harbor Management Commission.
"If the big cruise ships want to come in and use our services, they should pay for that," she said.
"I look at the cruise ship industry as our guests," she said. "One of the reasons I'm also running for council is that the City Council has left residents out of the discussion on cruise ships. I have publicly asked for information and not received any."
She argues the Harbor Management Commission has been left out of the discussions.
She said she is supportive of the smaller "boutique" ships that have about 100 passengers and charge higher fares than the mega cruise ships.
"I take issue with businesses connected to the cruise ship industry busing people to Camden and beyond," she said.
In addition, she said she has seen no financial proof that businesses on Main Street are making money off the larger ships.
"I think we've been bamboozled," she said.
Her thoughts on this issue fit into her overall philosophy that when city government supports businesses, the question should always be asked: "What are they giving us in return?"
She sees Rockland as a service center and as a commodity. "We are something to sell, and we should not sell ourselves short," she said.
She acknowledges that when it comes to development, she looks more at protecting the city's character and quality of life than strictly thinking pro-business.
"Many people have moved here to get away from, you know, big business and to not have a Wal-Mart right next door," she said. "I do think there's a balance and I don't think all business is good for Rockland."
On the issue of rising property taxes, she questions whether the city, as a service center, is charging enough in fees for services provided to those outside Rockland. In particular, she pointed to the dump fees.
In addition, she calls for going through the budget line by line and talking to other communities to see where they are succeeding in areas we are not.
MacLellan-Ruf said she has supported Brass Compass restaurant owner Lynn Archer's use of Winslow-Holbrook Park for outdoor tables, an issue that has sparked controversy in recent years. The council has allowed limited use following heated debates and opposition to the use from veterans, family members of the men the park is named for and some in the business community.
"I think a precedent had been set for years with her using that piece of public space and I think people had another agenda," the candidate said. "And it could have easily been resolved if people had just looked at the history, looked at what her use of that space gave back to the city."
The candidate said she is open to changing zoning in the city and creating new zoning regulations if they make sense in a given area.
She said Old County Road is the most likely candidate, given the increased traffic pressure it will experience due to Wal-Mart moving to Thomaston.
The candidate supports creation of and improvements to the city's harbor trail. She noted it has been paid for through grant money rather than taxpayer money.
MacLellan-Ruf lives with her husband, Nick, dog Cargo and two cats, Ashley and Stray Boy.
Courier-Gazette Editor Daniel Dunkle can be reached at email@example.com or 594-4401 ext. 122.
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Daniel Dunkle is editor of The Courier-Gazette and news director for Courier Publications. He lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, who also works for Courier Publications, and two children.
Dunkle has previously served as editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. He has worked as a reporter and photographer in the Midcoast since 1998.