Open letter to City Council

I am a member of the City Manager Search Committee, I speak to you here as a citizen and am not representing the Search Committee in what I have to say.

Each of you city councilors is dedicated to Rockland and bring your best individual ideas to improve Rockland. Your public duties are not easy, and I am grateful you have stepped up to serve our city. We as a community depend on you to set a tone of collaboration and to guide Rockland in a productive direction. I know you all respond to a lot of passionate voices in our community, all wanting the best for Rockland.

Your community wants a functioning council. We also sense that you do not always act as a cohesive team for our city. Rockland citizens want good, intelligent, compassionate growth, and well considered policies. We also recognize the difficulty you must face in reflecting divergent perspectives among the voters.

As a member of the Search Committee, I volunteered to interview several highly respected long-term managers in Maine. I asked them to respond to seven questions, hoping to better understand how to attract quality candidates that would commit to our community for a long period of time. It would be great if Rockland could avoid the costs and confusion associated with turnover and inefficiencies.

I asked:

1. Why do city managers stay?

2. What makes a city manager position most appealing?

3. What are the most common mistakes search committees make?

4. What questions should I be asking to help Rockland secure a constructive future?

5. Do you recommend any question to ask a candidate that goes beyond an obvious list?

6. Must a city manager in Rockland have extensive experience in municipal management? Would we make a mistake in considering a candidate whose management experience lies outside of municipal government?

7. How important is it that a city manager be a resident of the municipality?

I prepared a report for the committee and the City Council after speaking with John Bubier, Joe Slocum, Joe Gray and Mike McGovern. The Search Committee also met as a group with Tom Hall, Rockland’s former city manager, and Bill Bridgeo, Augusta’s city manager.

All six emphasized the importance of good working relationships within a cohesive, functioning City Council that knows what its community’s core values are. They also told us not to expect a new city manager, no matter how qualified and experienced, to be able to bring a divided council together.

Mane Municipal Association is hired to help in vetting candidates, conducting background checks, photocopying resume packets, keeping us legal in personnel issues. All six mangers said that this part of the process is not difficult. The hard part is cultivating a City Council ready to steer in a unified direction so we can determine if a good match exists between a candidate’s style and the culture of our community.

Please develop stronger team-building skills by accepting the pro bono workshop offered by John Bubier. We already have a very desirable city.

Connie Hayes


Implement ranked-choice voting for 2018

Last November, the people of Maine approved ranked-choice voting at the ballot box. Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, and it mitigates the “lesser of two evils” problem that many of us have faced by allowing voters to vote for their favorite candidate without fear (or at least with much less fear) of inadvertently electing their least-favorite candidate. Ranked-choice voting offers the possibility of loosening the hold of the two major political parties on our electoral system and providing third-party candidates with plausible paths to victory.

The Maine Senate has asked the Supreme Judicial Court to declare a “solemn occasion” per Article VI of the Constitution of the State of Maine to consider the constitutionality of ranked-choice voting, about which Attorney General Janet Mills and some senators have voiced concerns. Mills has filed a brief arguing that our Constitution “must be amended before such fundamental changes in Maine’s electoral process can occur.”

On the other hand, the League of Women Voters of Maine and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections have filed a brief arguing that “finding that a solemn occasion exists here will set a troubling new precedent allowing this court to be called upon to declare the constitutionality of enacted laws without the benefit of full litigation.”

There may be constitutional problems with ranked-choice voting — or there may not. It has not yet been challenged in court. The Supreme Judicial Court has never granted a solemn occasion on enacted Maine law, and it has established precedent that “no solemn occasion exists when the justices are asked to give their opinions on the law which is already in effect.” Precedent also indicates that solemn occasions are not a substitute for decisions made in the course of litigation.

Ranked-choice voting is currently the law in Maine. It is the will of Maine’s people. It may be challenged in court, but that has not yet happened. Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap should implement ranked-choice voting without delay in time for the 2018 election.

Nathan Davis


Finds Woodstove Alliance 'partisan'

I took the opportunity to read the Guest Column explanation by the founder of the Woodstove Alliance as to what the Alliance is and what its role is in the community; that is, a nonpartisan advocacy group in the Midcoast area. Having had an interest in politics since the 1964 presidential election, where I was the chairman of the College Young Democrats, the Alliance seems to me to be another partisan advocacy group with a clear political agenda.

It is common for conservative, progressive and liberal groups to frame themselves as being nonpartisan for the purpose of luring people into believing that they profess to want to dialogue with those whom they disagree withas well as being unbiased, neutral, and nonpartisan; when in actuality they prefer to discuss and listen to those who agree with them and are biased, take sides and practice partisanship.

As a closing commentary, over the years I have come to view groups asserting to be nonpartisan with skepticism, as every group has a political agenda.

Rodney C. Lynch


Trump's budget makes most 'poorer and afraid'

I'm beginning to feel really afraid that we may not survive this administration. Really. Cuts to the state department while building up the military at a rate that outspends the next seven countries combined seem very scary to me, and not at all what I want for my country or for my family. I hope that all our senators and representatives are as shaken as I am and will work to change the president's proposed budget to maintain a strong state department while bringing the increases to defense down.

Cutting the budget of the EPA, along with the bill in the House of Representatives right now to close the EPA altogether, do not bode well for our air and water. NOAA budget cuts as Scott Pruitt declares that climate change is a natural occurrence means that the weather extremes that we are already seeing will get worse ever more quickly. We need weather research more than ever now.

Building a wall between ourselves and our neighbors while ending the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities makes us a much poorer society.

And the AHCA as a replacement for the ACA makes 99 percent of us poorer fiscally while helping the 1 percent. This is all backwards thinking. What will our senators and representatives do to make us, their constituents, safer and better, not poorer and afraid?

Susan F. Ellis

Spruce Head

Arts funding is about more than money

This past weekend I was at the Harvard Art Museums, where I had the chance to take in the magnificent achievements of our human culture dating back tens of thousands of years.

The continuum of human imagination, wonder, resilience and ingenuity was on display for every visitor to see and absorb. I was particularly struck by a small sculpture in the shape of a pack animal dating from 7th-century Syria. This delightful object measuring no more than 4 by 6 inches was, the label told me, made from “Glass, free blown with trailed openwork basket.”

Just think about this for a moment: somehow this fragile, beautiful thing made by some incredibly talented artist more than 24 centuries ago survived intact as a testament to our shared humanity. This is the value of the arts.

So when the current administration proposes to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, it’s not just about money, it’s about who we are at our core.

Our first president, George Washington, said, “To encourage literature and the arts is a duty which every good citizen owes his country.” He understood that “the arts and sciences are essential to the prosperity of the state and to the ornament and happiness of human life. They have a primary claim to the encouragement of every lover of his county and mankind.”

The decision to preserve the National Endowment for the Arts should be apolitical. Its $148 million budget is minuscule in relation to the whole, a mere 0.003 percent of the federal budget. So the argument that its elimination is necessary on budgetary grounds doesn’t hold water.

What we do know is that a nation that doesn’t the value the arts doesn’t thrive. As President Lyndon Johnson said in 1965, on the founding of the National Endowment for the Arts, “Art is a nation’s most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves and to others the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Please let your representatives know you value the role of the arts in all of our lives, for this generation, and those many more to come.

Suzette McAvoy

Director, Center for Maine Contemporary Art


Open letter to Rockland's children

Suzette McAvoy, director of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art , hosted Heart and Soul's first children's poster-making party on St. Patrick's Day; definitely a lucky day for Heart and Soul! Thank you, Suzette. Rockland is fortunate to have you pulling for our kids.

Another big-thank you goes to Alexis Iammarino, CMCA's resident sprite and the director of ArtLab. Alexis, by the way, created that show-stopping mural found on the side of the Rock City building downtown. She knows how to inspire young artists and provide the best art supplies. No stubby pencils or broken crayons for her crew. Alexis really knows collaborative art projects and Rockland children are invited to join her. Why? Because CMCA is for children, too. So go find Alexis and have fun making something cool. CMCA is the new building downtown on Winter Street with the gigantic LEGO people.

Now, kids, please listen up because there is a Second Art Party: Next Saturday, March 25, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Rockland Public Library. The theme is “What do you love about Rockland?” We want and need your posters to display around town. We'll bring all the supplies. You bring you. Hope to see you there.

Debby Atwell


Conservation district says thanks

Knox-Lincoln Soil & Water Conservation District’s 70th Anniversary Environmental Education Fundraiser held March 7 at Flatbread Company in Rockport was a great success. In addition to raising funds, the event celebrated the winners of this year’s K-6 Conservation Poster Contest on the theme “Healthy Soils Are Full of Life.”

Lots of poster contest winners from schools in Knox and Lincoln counties attended to celebrate and view the gorgeous gallery of winning posters, which were hung all around the restaurant. A good time was had by all and, between pizza sales and our raffle, we took in $600 to support our K-12 programs, which are free to all Knox and Lincoln K-12 students.

We extend our most heartfelt thanks to Flatbread Company for selecting the Conservation District as a community recipient of its donation program, everyone who showed up to enjoy pizza (and buy raffle tickets), and our generous raffle prize donors: Mystic Woodworks in Warren for a beautiful wooden cutting board; Final-Lee Acres & Wandering Goat in Union for a native bee nesting box and Gardeners Goat Milk Soap; and Maine Summer Dog in Union for two hand-painted wooden gardening signs.

In addition, the Conservation District donated a $70 Gift Certificate for its spring plant sale coming up May 6 and 7 at Union Fairgrounds; a Bokashi Composting Kit; and a Sure-Close Kitchen Compost Pail. Winners of the evening’s raffle were: Ann Mynttinen, Rockland; Cindy Kava, Rockport; Riley Neugebauer, Lincolnville; and Becky ford, Camden.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to making this event a winner.

Hildy Ellis, District Coordinator,

Knox-Lincoln Soil & Water Conservation District