Democracy in action
We think it's safe to say nobody could have predicted the twists and turns of the recent local elections, but we applaud those who made the effort to vote and participate in town meetings. The democratic process sees to it that the voice of the majority is heard and acted upon in the manner the majority sees fit.
Lincolnville residents certainly set the newsroom buzzing with a vote to cease funding for the part-time police department. (See the story on page 1.) At some point in the past, a majority of residents decided it was important to have a municipal police force and now another majority has reversed that choice. We respect the democratic process, however, we have heard many comments from the “other side” since the vote to discontinue funding for municipal officers, though none chose to go on the record with their thoughts. Many small towns like Lincolnville do not have a municipal police force and according to The Camden Herald archives, doing away with municipally-employed police officers has been talked about for years. While it may help taxpayers by lowering property tax bills, other things should also be considered — loss of a source of income for several officers currently working part-time in Lincolnville as well as increased response times to all types of emergency calls. Lincolnville may not be a hotbed of crime but a consistent police presence may have contributed to that. A look back through archives shows police responding to accidents and robberies, being promoted and offering the public education on a variety of topics in addition to receiving awards for their actions while responding to calls for assistance.
Then, in Hope a few days later, residents defeated an effort to increase the stipend paid to that town's long-time fire chief, who was seeking an increase of several thousand dollars per year. (See related story.) The percentage quoted — 175 — may have seemed daunting to some but the dollar amount works out to less than $106 per week, a less than $70 per week increase. Currently, and going forward, the fire chief will be paid about $3.54 per hour for his services, based on his estimate of 565 hours per year taking care of fire department business. Some residents criticized the chief for being “paid to take a day off ” — he has another full-time job — as well as citing his volunteer status.
It's true, volunteers for many organizations are not paid, but fire department volunteers are; and there is a reason for it. Police officers and firefighters, as well as emergency medical technicians are required to train and keep certifications active, often at a sacrifice to their families and finances.
Think about it — would you want someone who learned how to use a defibrillator 15 or 20 years ago to give it a try, even if they hadn't kept up with the most recent guidelines or seen the most recent technology?
And yet, when budget discussions take place, often it is public safety organizations that take the largest hit and amount of criticism, perhaps because residents feel those departments spend a lot of money without much gain — until they require police assistance, a loved one is injured or their house is on fire. It seems to us some things are worth more than a few dollars out of pocket. We have seen the change of heart more than once — when a resident is assisted by police officers or firefighters, and they then become a staunch advocate of the department and its role in the community.
While we may be in the minority regarding certain votes, such as these, we still commend voters for taking the time to express their points of view and encourage those who are unhappy with the majority vote to take action. After all, if you don't vote, you can't legitimately complain about the outcome.