Do they get it?
As we approach the November election, candidates are acknowledging the property tax burden in Rockland is high, but we are not sure they really get it.
In Regional School Unit 13, for example, we are told the school district has given each school board member both an iPad and a laptop to go paperless. It takes a lot of reams of paper to equal an expensive electronic device.
The Rockland City Council has put construction of a $586,000 salt and sand shed on the November ballot. The city hopes to build the 9,100-square-foot structure near the city transfer station off Pleasant Street.
First of all, this seems like a steep price for a shed. This does not seem like the year to make this move, and it also seems likely this would not really be the end of the cost to taxpayers.
The original plan was for a new public works garage down by the transfer station, so the Cadillac of sheds could merely be a first phase of a larger building project out on Pleasant Street that would cost much more. The approach seems to be to boil the frog slowly. "Nothing to worry about voters, it is just a shed."
Voters should turn down this project and any move to change the location of the nearly paid off city hall, which city officials admit to talking about but deny actively planning.
At the very least, more open discussion with the public about these proposed projects and the city's long-term plans is needed before the green light is given.
City Council candidates Hal Perry, Louise MacLellan-Ruf and incumbent Larry Pritchett faced off in a debate last week at city hall.
MacLellan-Ruf came out swinging, listing costly mistakes and shortsightedness in recent downtown construction projects and calling for more transparency and responsiveness in city government. She is the candidate the city employees, especially those on the harbor, are hoping does not get elected.
She seems likely to hold city staff and other councilors accountable, and she speaks very articulately. The only concern is she seems at times like a one-issue candidate, obsessed with her opposition to massive cruise ships.
Incumbent Larry Pritchett argued his City Council held the line on the budget this year, and it did at that. He pointed to improvements in energy efficiency and the reduction in the percentage the city pays for employee health benefits. He also rightly targeted the Recreation Department for cuts in costs and increases in the revenue it takes in to support itself.
Pritchett seems to be ruled by reason rather than emotion. He calmly considers the issues and makes a strong candidate for reelection.
Perry argued for a zero-based budget and a line-by-line approach. As only one member of the council, he would be unlikely to change the overall process. His other suggestion was to share a department head such as fire chief with another neighboring community. The idea sounds good, but again, we doubt this could be implemented anytime soon.
His best point in the debate was with the landfill closure still largely unfunded, it does not make sense for city officials to start thinking about what they can spend money on once some of the present debt on city hall is paid off.
All three candidates deserve appreciation for stepping forward and being willing to serve their communities. We also feel they have stated their positions clearly enough in the public forum for the voters to make an informed decision.
In reviewing PETA's ads raging against Linda Bean, we think Rockland and Ms. Bean may actually be in the clear. The lobster pictured is bright red while the accusation is they are being torn apart alive. It has no crusher claw and appears to be a species never seen in local waters.