ROCKPORT — Dana Jackson, Ralph “Doc” Wallace and Denise Munger are on the ballot for the Tuesday, Aug. 30, special election to fill a vacant seat on the Rockport Select Board. All three candidates answered questions on issues facing the town for voters to see where they stand.

Dana Jackson

Dana Jackson. Photo courtesy of Dana Jackson.

Why are you running for the Rockport Select Board seat?

“My name is Dana Jackson, I grew up in Belfast and have lived in Rockport for the past 15 years! My wife Sierra and I have a son (Jude) who is nine. We enjoy the outdoors, sports, gardening and spending time on Islesboro in the summer months. I enjoy coaching my sons teams and also serve on the Five Town Little League Board of Directors. I was also a member of the Rockport Fire Department for 6 years before resigning due to family medical issues. Serving on the Select Board would be a great honor, and I decided to run so that I could serve all the citizens of Rockport.”

What are some of the most pressing matters facing the town?

“Jobs, Housing, Infrastructure. These three go hand in hand and will keep our young people from moving away for opportunities.”

What are your thoughts on the sewer dispute between Rockport and Camden, and how should that be solved?

“Rockport should explore all options on the table. I am in favor of Rockport looking into developing our own infrastructure if it were to better serves our citizens and put us in a better place for the long haul.”

Describe your thoughts on how Rockport and Camden work together and share services. What works well, and what could be improved?

“I feel the two towns work well, fire and EMS, as well as the police department, work hand and hand and have great partnerships. Of course, there are areas where improvements can be made with the sewer dispute being a prime example!”

What are your thoughts on developing the former Rockport Elementary School property? Do you agree with the proposal to add affordable housing and commercial space, or no?

“Housing is a major issue and I would be open to ideas to develop housing and business ventures on this property. Ultimately. I feel that something of this magnitude would need to be a ballot item so that all citizens can have a say.”

How should Rockport help fix the current housing shortage, and describe your thoughts on the Knox County Homeless Coalition’s 18-unit affordable housing project off Route 1?

“I am in favor of exploring options that would allow housing to go into the vacant medical offices. The infrastructure is there so it should be put to use that benefits the members of our community.”

What do you believe the future of Rockport is?

“Our future is up to us and I want to do my part to continue the great work already happening. We are at a pivotal place with the decisions before us regarding the RES lot and some of the housing proposals. I want to be a part of these decisions and be a voice for all citizens so that we can build on these amazing opportunities and make sure we are setting our youth up with something they can continue to build upon!”

Ralph “Doc” Wallace

Ralph “Doc” Wallace. Photo courtesy of Ralph Wallace.

Why are you running for the Rockport Select Board seat?

“We are New Englanders — by choice. My wife, Haunani — a native Hawaiian — and I have lived and worked in four wonderful New England communities in three New England states: Connecticut, Vermont and Maine — indeed, “the way life should be.” We love Rockport, but are deeply concerned about the perception that there is a division in our town between the Village and West Rockport. My lawn sign says it all: “Doc for ALL Rockport.” The other towns we have lived in had neighborhoods, but there was always a sense of living together productively in a unified community. I have no desire to be a permanent selectman. I want to fill the vacant Select Board seat and put my energy and extensive professional experience into two years of ensuring the unified well-being of ALL of Rockport now and in the future — particularly at this time of important town challenges which I will detail in my answers below.”

What are some of the most pressing matters facing the town?

“There are three major challenges facing Rockport at this time which will impact our legacy and quality of life:

“The RES site. This issue is a punctuation point in the legacy of Rockport. The prospect of a small park surrounded by high-density, affordable housing would do irreparable harm to our quality of life. I support a high-quality parks and recreation concept — ballfields, tennis and pickleball courts, exercise track, and seasonal skating rink — surrounded by a small gym and very limited commercial space much like the community-appropriate café/bistro across from the site.

“The “Camdenization” of Rockport. Camden is a thriving, quality town, but while “emulation may be the sincerest form of flattery,” I believe Rockport is best served by maintaining its low-development, parklike character. In addition to the RES issues, although I support the new hotel, I am opposed to the expansion of our little “downtown” into a bustling, commercial tourist center. I serve on the town’s Harbor Committee which has approved only minimal commercial operations. I hope we will never see the day when there are so many floats, piers, and mooring balls that one could almost walk across the harbor. Recently, we had a totally unnecessary attempt by a previous Select Board to force labyrinthine ordinances upon homeowners who wanted to offset their considerable property taxes by renting space to touring visitors. When confronted with the fact that there were zero police complaints regarding rentals, the response was along the lines of, “Well, Camden and other towns have them.” Mercifully, when the matter was put to a town vote, Rockport rejected the restrictions by nearly 70%.

“The structure of our property taxes needs scrutiny. Like many Rockporters, we just received our tax bill with a significant increase. Two-thirds of our taxes go to education. After an additional 6% is taken by Knox County, the town is left with a paltry 29% for the oversight and administration of the entire town. With such limited resources, the Select Board is faced with a near-impossible meting out of services which are sorely needed by ALL of Rockport’s neighborhoods. While I have no intention of being a surrogate School Board member, is it unreasonable for our Select Board to expect the same quality of rational budget request as that which other cost centers are required to give? In my professional work, I was appointed to the National Blue Ribbon Excellence Panel. My work involved evaluating and accrediting high-performance schools across the country. I evaluated schools from Maine to Texas and I have a very clear perspective on how quality school systems are funded. Please understand, my wife and I are lifelong educators. I have taught at the primary, intermediate, middle school, high school, and college levels. I revere the importance of a quality education for the success of our nation, but I also know that public education must be supported and financed at a level that is fair and sustainable for the town’s taxpayers.”

Describe your thoughts on how Rockport and Camden work together and share services. What works well, and what could be improved?

“Education, property assessment, police and fire protection services and, until recently, sewer services have all worked well. That is a pretty good list. With the possible exception of worker housing, I think we currently have it about right for cooperative services.

What are your thoughts on the sewer dispute between Rockport and Camden, and how should that be solved? Describe your thoughts on how Rockport and Camden work together and share services. What works well, and what could be improved? What are your thoughts on developing the former Rockport Elementary School property? Do you agree with the proposal to add affordable housing and commercial space, or no?

“I find the sewer dispute perplexing. There really are no technical or capacity issues. The system was designed to more than adequately handle the needs of the two towns. Indeed, the dispute is administrative — who should pay how much for what? As I have said before, it is time for the adults in the room to step up — appoint a small two-town committee to work out the issues and bring an agreement back to both Select Boards for approval. Done!

“I have already answered the RES question and shared services question in earlier answers.”

How should Rockport help fix the current housing shortage, and describe your thoughts on the Knox County Homeless Coalition’s 18-unit affordable housing project off Route 1?

“First of all, neither Rockport nor any other small Midcoast town has the resources and tax dollars to replicate federal public housing. As a wise citizen opined at a recent town hearing, affordable housing should be affordable. This means that people should be able to afford the cost. It does not mean that the town should afford it. Market forces can solve this problem. Already there are examples of market force in play in Rockport and Rockland where businessmen have purchased existing houses, remodeled them to accommodate worker-residents, and charging rents that are affordable while at the same time are sufficient to cover the mortgage costs of the owner. Win-win! I also need to point out that such housing projects should be proportional to the fair-share responsibility of Rockport. I disagree with those who seem to think that tiny Rockport should be the housing solution for the entire coast. I think the Homeless [Coalition] project on Route 1 is well intentioned but does not have the proximate necessary services to serve the residents.”

What do you believe the future of Rockport is?

“I see our future as a projection of our current blessed condition. Rockport is a beautiful, desirable family town with a wonderful residential and commercial balance. We are at a punctuation point in our legacy, and my three key issues for running along with the much-discussed housing matter will determine if we can maintain the delightful livability which we currently enjoy. In many respects, this answer undergirds why I am running and why I humbly ask for your vote.”

Please provide a brief bio about yourself for voters to get to know you better.

“I love this opportunity to fully introduce myself to the community. Throughout my career, friends and associates have said to me something along the lines of, “Doc, you don’t act like a superintendent of schools.” When I ask why they say that, the answer is along the lines of, “You don’t have that august, serene, executive demeanor.” So be it. That’s me. Quick story: While serving on the National Panel, I had the incredible honor of having a few moments of eye-to-eye conversation with President Ronald Reagan in the Rose Garden at the White House. Then, as a panel member months later, I was invited to an early breakfast with Steve Forbes in his New York private dining room with three other guests. Great stuff.

“But let me tell you about a “culinary moment” that beat all that. Still months later, one morning, my secretary rushed breathlessly into my office exclaiming, “Dr. Wallace, you have received something that no other previous superintendent has ever had!” More than curious, I said, “Gloria, what is it?” She responded, “You have been invited to the custodians’ summer picnic!” The next Saturday, I ambled down to the river park armed with a six-pack of beer and a bowl of potato salad and spent the rest of the afternoon flipping hamburgers and swapping war stories with 40 of the most under-appreciated and hardest-working men and women one could ever be with. And that might be as important a reason to earn your vote as any other.”

Denise Munger

Denise Munger. Photo courtesy of Denise Munger.

Why are you running for the Rockport Select Board seat?

· “Love of Rockport — its history and its future.

· I can make a positive difference on important issues that face Rockport. My legal background and willingness to do the hard work to thoroughly understand the facts and the context of complex issues has been and will be important to finding good solutions for Rockport.

· Ability to listen, work well with others and find common ground solutions to difficult issues. We need to listen to all of our residents — together we are stronger and serve Rockport better.

· Commitment to service and listening to you, our residents, on what you want for the future of Rockport.

· Fiscal responsibility — we owe a duty of being careful with your hard earned tax money.”

What are some of the most pressing matters facing the town?

· “Taxes. Running a small town is expensive. We like the control of managing all of our own services, but as these services become more complex and regulated, and residents expect higher levels of service, it becomes increasingly expensive for Rockport to be all things to all residents. We simply must look for efficiencies and cost savings everywhere we can find them, including grants and new sources of revenue, and regional cost sharing. Our taxpayers work hard for their money, and they deserve a town government that provides the services they need but also keeps their taxes as low as possible.

· “Storm impacts on infrastructure. Increasingly frequent storms with larger volumes of stormwater challenge our harbor, road, and wastewater infrastructure. We have rebuilt the seawalls, but at very high tides, seawater continues to wash into the Harbor Park area, so more remains to be done. Also, stormwater flow from more frequent violent rainstorms washes out roads and culverts and complicates wastewater treatment. We must work with experts on how to ensure we are building and maintaining roads and stormwater flow systems to withstand these more frequent storms, as well as find sources of grant funding for these future investments.

· “Rockport Elementary School site. More below.

· “Wastewater management. More below.”

What are your thoughts on the sewer dispute between Rockport and Camden, and how should that be solved?

“The two towns should have been able to solve this, but personalities got in the way. Solving complex issues like this are made more difficult by grandstanding and public soundbites. It takes behind the scenes work and research to find workable solutions, as I was able to do in my years of mediating legal disputes. Rockport is in the early stages of evaluating providing our own wastewater treatment plant and figuring out how to pay for that. I love being part of a small town but would also like to see more cooperation in the region to allow cost sharing.”

Describe your thoughts on how Rockport and Camden work together and share services. What works well, and what could be improved?

“The police department is a great example of cooperation between Rockport and Camden that benefits both towns. Historically, we have shared an assessor and that has worked well. Being able to share costs of providing essential municipal services is a model that would make sense to explore beyond police and assessing. I would like to see an exploration of regional wastewater treatment services, but as with these other services, it will depend on finding the right people and a willingness in our town governments to work together.”

What are your thoughts on developing the former Rockport Elementary School property? Do you agree with the proposal to add affordable housing and commercial space, or no?

“I do not support the 84 housing units shown on the NewHeight plan. That is simply too dense for Rockport. The NewHeight idea did show that 7 acres allows room for some housing but also significant green space (and other community amenities). While I am a big fan of parks in Rockport and spend much of my time helping to make the parks and public spaces look better, I am keenly aware of the budget pressures on park maintenance and the poor image of Rockport when the parks are not maintained. I am concerned that having the entire 7 acres as a town park could end up being poorly maintained and be a burden on our taxpayers. Personally, I would like to see some housing — less dense, more in keeping with the surrounding neighborhood — green space and other community amenities. I support commercial space on the Route 1 side of the site, but we need to find willing businesses to invest in that space. I look forward to hearing more from our residents on their views and ideas for the RES site now that we have the NewHeight analysis.”

How should Rockport help fix the current housing shortage, and describe your thoughts on the Knox County Homeless Coalitions’s 18-unit affordable housing project off Route 1?

“The housing shortage is a challenge throughout our country. Rockport has a treasured quality of life that we want to protect. A recently passed state statute allows for accessory dwelling units and increased housing density. The Ordinance Review Committee is reviewing this new legislation to consider its impact in Rockport. Knox County Homeless Coalition is planning an information session in September on the proposed 18-unit housing project, so we can all learn more and make sure we understand the facts before we express an opinion.”

What do you believe the future of Rockport is?

“Rockport is a hub in this area. Smart, targeted business development can help expand our tax base and provide some relief to our residential taxpayers. We have an active Economic Development committee that is currently working on a project to talk with our existing businesses about what support they need to enhance their success in Rockport.

We need more housing for young families, workers and seniors to help build the future we want. We must also work to protect our quality of life, make sure those who came before us and made Rockport what it is are valued and listened to.

As I have spent the last seven years working on many issues in Rockport, I have been fortunate to talk with many of our residents throughout Rockport and, while there is a diversity of opinions, there is a common love of this town and our shared home — all of us working together is the best future for Rockport.”

Please provide a brief bio about yourself for voters to get to know you better.

“After retiring from my legal practice of 30 years, in 2015 my husband and I moved to Rockport, finally being able to live in the place we love best! Our favorite thing about Rockport is the small town feel and strong sense of community. I jumped into town life, listening, and learning about what makes this town so special — its many diverse people are our strongest asset. I’ve worked on the Select Board, Legacy Rockport, the Garden Club, the Library Foundation, the Parks Committee and, most recently, on bringing high speed fiber internet to all of Rockport, via Midcoast Internet.

In all of these activities that serve Rockport, I am passionate about respecting people and their opinions, being courteous in how we talk to each other, and will listen to you in getting things done. With your vote and support, I will work hard for all of Rockport! Thank you.”