Rockland is thriving

By Valli Geiger | May 18, 2018

So, in this edition's positive news focus, I want to talk about just a few of the many ways Rockland is thriving.

I want to start with our city manager, Tom Lutrell. We are so lucky to have him. He knows Rockland well, loves it and brings a steadiness we haven’t had in a long time. We have the right person at the helm. We know he is here for the long haul; this is his community. His finance background also means he knows well there are no magic tricks to our revenue issues.

Because he knows this community, he knows that many citizens are struggling to pay their property taxes, and that matters to him. Tom has the ability to work well with Rockland's employees, the City Council and its citizens. An employee told me she could not imagine working for a better city manager; that he listens, he can handle disagreement, he can apologize if he makes a mistake. She said, “What more can you ask for?” That is a rare gift.

I also want to celebrate our citizens. Rockland people, whether they have lived here for generations or are newly arrived, love their city, care passionately for it and are fully engaged in its  life. That is a rare thing. It makes for raucous public meetings, but would we have it any other way? How awful it would be to live in a city where no one knew or cared what was going on. I also believe that as much as the city and the council come in for criticism, it means people believe they have a voice, that if they show up, their opinions will be taken into account.

Rockland is an amazing place. Not for us the sleepy wealth of Camden and Rockport. Rockland is a diverse, sometimes gritty, always authentic place with the knack of rising from the ashes to remake itself time and time again. Its people have grit. Transitioning from the lime industry to shipbuilding to fishing and fish processing to now art, Rockland finds a way to renew itself. Not easily, not always smoothly, but how could it be otherwise?

Each change requires adjustment. Some are winners, seeing opportunities in the new, some lose a valued way of life and struggle to find their place in a changed and changing Rockland. Yet here we are, a place the young people of Maine want to move to, a place people want to retire to, with a thriving downtown, beautiful, walkable neighborhoods and our connection to the sea. We live in a beautiful place with a real sense of community. We know our neighbors. After decades, long-stagnant housing values are rising; giving Rockland residents some return on the biggest investment many make in their lives.

In a time when many Maine towns are emptying out, shedding people and businesses, Rockland is attracting business, people and growth. Our job is not to manage despair and loss, it is to figure out what we want, what we value and protect it as we grow, so that all can flourish.

Comments (8)
Posted by: Nathan Kroms Davis | May 21, 2018 08:15

Yes, Rockland is thriving and well-positioned for the future, and I'm happy to see that perspective in print! Thanks, Valli, for presenting it. It's also true, as all the previous commenters have alluded to, that we face persistent economic challenges. In particular, as George mentioned, economic inequality is a font from which so many other problems flow. It's difficult to see how to address that locally, but I am encouraged by improvements in the school district and the fact that the City is taking affordable housing seriously, among other projects undertaken by the City and other entities.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | May 20, 2018 13:28

Rockland is thriving; and that is from someone who has lived here for the past 73 years, retired, living on minimal income wondering how much longer will be able to keep up with taxes.  Yes, there are things that need to be changed; and governmental leadership is chipping away at that. Go back to the fifties and sixties? I think not.  Thankful for a local "rag" that has so much good news.  I, for one, need it.

Posted by: Dale Hayward | May 19, 2018 19:55

Joe: I heard through the grapevine that the city council is preparing an ordinance to prohibit vw bugs from entering Rockland due to the distinct possibility they may fall into a rut or area better known as a crater widely available in Rockland. Just saying, you may have a valid point, but, we need to keep a perspective on the most important issues at hand, infrastructure is out of sight and out of minds. I think you are just causing trouble, ole boy. Stop it right now. Did you ever notice that upon a few entrances to Rockland we have posted signs that read to the effect: QUIET ZONE, USE OF ENGINE BRAKES PROHIBITED. The one I like is going from Park Street, turn left at the arrow on the Broadway going East/North at the top of the hill is one of these signs on the right-hand side. Going uphill, how many would use their engine brakes?? ha.ha. ha. Paving is spelled something like Paying. We ain.t got no yenom.

Posted by: Dale Hayward | May 19, 2018 18:26

Thank you, George, for the eloquent babble of your perspective, whatever you said.

Posted by: George Terrien | May 19, 2018 10:30

Thank you, Valli, for your embrace of our strength and opportunity.  Well done!

One comment, and one not likely to surprise you:  the "sleepy wealth" you described among other towns may for some disguise their tattered fringes of poverty.  In Rockland, however, those fringes persist as more than vestige of nearly intractable and deep-seated difficulties, problems that have arisen from economic change that preceded--and now extends--way past the arrival of renewed economic opportunity.  Our job today must include reducing inequality, the fuel of populism that can neither understand nor bear the burden of poverty and the thinness of opportunity.  Addressing inequity must extend far beyond the correction of symptoms, to provide structure for achievement among all in need.  Education, health care, living wage, and economic opportunity must integrate the future they offer with assistance that elevates, and not just relegates, those who suffer--way too many here in Rockland.

Posted by: Joe Patten | May 19, 2018 10:03

Can anyone remember when a street in Rockland was paved, other than Old County Road? When an investment was made in infrastructure improvement beyond Main St? Just asking.

Posted by: Dale Hayward | May 19, 2018 08:57

Oh yes, have you noticed the number of houses for sale? How about the number of people that are moving OUT of Rockland? Someone needs to get out more often and smell the real air. Lots of things going on.

Posted by: Dale Hayward | May 18, 2018 12:32

Time to stop comparing Rockland to anywhere and especially throwing remarks to Camden and Rockport. We are all different towns, cities and people, do not compare or find fault with our neighbors. It is obvious that your motivation, Valii to promote yourself with whatever your plans might be. I for one, do not care to have you attempting to sell the idea that we are on to the art world as being the future. It is important to be aware of despair, and the plight of our people. Changes will not come without a price. Local people are struggling and you just do not see it through your rose-colored glasses. Investments are being made but not by local people, money is not here. The businesses that Rockland is attracting, the people and the growth are not always in the best interest, and that is plain to see. Your attempt to cover for the council is lame, it does not pay to speak up, it does not pay to be critical, even if constructive and so much falls on death ears. Your attempt here is feeble. Many generations earned their living from fishing and the related industries to shed any negativity on that is wrong. With the technology, educational opportunities and the increase hard work of people we prosper not by digging up old bones or planting sour grapes to the heritage and past. or finding fault with our neighbors. You sound just like a city councilor out for justification and attention. Sorry, I do not buy it. No thanks.

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