SCARBOROUGH — Four candidates are jockeying for two seats on the Town Council, including an incumbent who wants to serve a second, three-year term.
Councilor Robert “Will” Rowan, who is nearing the end of his first term, is seeking re-election. He is opposed by John “David” Dittmer, Paul Johnson and Donald Hamill.
Councilor Christopher Caiazzo, whose term is also expiring, is not on the Nov. 6 council ballot; he is running for election to the Legislature in House District 28.
Dittmer said the main reason he decided to run is the lack of communication between local government and residents, and “very divisive” issues like the school budget battles and the School Board recall vote.
Dittmer, who said he is a strong supporter of the schools, believes he could bring a more even temperament and balanced look at issues the town is facing.
He said there is a lot of misinformation in the community about the Scarborough Downs tax increment financing and credit enhancement agreements and, as a business owner, he understands the developers’ desire for an expedited process. But as a resident, with the scale of the project, he wants to know all the variables and understand the various perspectives.
Dittmer said he supports the Downs project because the town needs to diversify its tax base. He said the burdent the residential part of the project will place on the town for schools, public safety and trash removal will be offset by the light industrial and commercial uses the project is expected to attract.
The multi-faceted project should be decided by the council, Dittmer said, because it is the body elected to represent the people. He said if the project is not supported, it could have a “chilling” effect on local business development.
Dittmer said residents should be more involved in local issues, and people need to be involved in decision-making early in the process.
Elections are popularity contests by nature, he said, and although he is always willing to listen, Dittmer also said he will not shy away from making difficult decisions that may make some unhappy.
Johnson said he decided to run because his interactions with town government have left him feeling unheard and dismissed. He said he sees a divide between the public and local government, saying it appears some officials believe they have mandates if elected and are too comfortable with their positions.
“It’s not a mandate to shape the town in my image,” said Johnson, who was one of the leaders of the grassroots group Road to Renewal, which led the campaign to recall three School Board members last spring.
Johnson said he will support the tax agreement with the Scarborough Downs project if the third-party financial analysis shows it will be a beneficial agreement for the town.
But if he had to cast a vote today without additional information, Johnson said, he would vote against the project.
Johnson said it has been eye-opening going door to door and speaking with people about the issues with which they are concerned.
“Generally speaking, they are ready for a seismic change in town government,” he said.
He said the way the council conducts its workshops is something he would like to alter, including extending the three-minute time limit for comments by individuals, as well as the configuration of how councilors are seated, some with their backs to the audience.
Johnson said the decision-making process must be more interactive, adding the public wants to see debate and dialogue.
Hamill said he is running because he is semi-retired, has time to dedicate to the community and feels a sense of duty to serve. Hamill also said he would like to restore the concept of public service and garner more public participation in town government.
He said throughout his professional life, he has practiced the ability to find common ground in conflicts.
Hamill said he has three priorities in his bid for a seat on the council: economic sustainability and fiscal responsibility, public engagement, and working on trust and transparency.
According to Hamill, the town operates with more than $100 million in debt, the most of any municipality in the state. The town could be more efficient, and without financial solvency, he said, everything else goes downhill.
Hamill said he remains open-minded about TIF discussions with the developers of the Downs project and sees benefits to the town. He also said the way the plans were introduced to the public was “terrible.”
Hamill said the council should slow down and consider putting the issue to a referendum to gauge public support. He wants to see an independent third-party analysis of the financial impact to the town, saying it’s part of the due diligence that must be done.
Hamill said he is committed to preserving public access to marine resources and would also like to expand the time limit people have to speak at meetings because three minutes is not enough time for someone to explain their concerns.
Rowan said in all issues he aims for common ground. He is seeking re-election to the council because he sees a need for continuity and experiencedleadership.
Rowan said the Downs TIF partnership makes sense, as along as the benefits to the town outweigh the costs. He said he’s leery about the plan for rapid growth, with the schools being burdened by the development, as well as congestion and traffic. However, he likes the idea of a downtown center, depending on what the town wants.
He said he would like to see a third-party financial analysis of the benefits, as well as more feedback in public forums on the project.
Other issues Rowan said he wants to focus on include increased access to affordable housing, preserving open spaces, and attracting growth in the right areas. The councilor would also like to work more with older residents on issues such as access to transportation and recreational opportunities.
Rowan said he sees the value of a diverse socio-economic population and, from a societal standpoint, he said Scarborough can’t be a town for where only the wealthy and elite can afford to live.
Residence: Woodside Drive
Family: Married, two daughters
Occupation: Co-owner and manager of a physical therapy business
Education: Bachelor’s degree in history, law degree from the Univerity of Maine School of Law
Political/civic experience: Wentworth School Building Committee, Scarborough Education Foundation
Website/social media: www.facebook.com/DittmerForScarborough
Residence: Mitchell Hill Road
Family: Married, one daughter
Occupation: Teacher, business owner
Education: Bachelor’s degree in economics
Website/social media: www.facebook.com/PJforTC
Residence: Bay Street
Family: Married, four children
Occupation: Semi-retired from human resources, consulting
Education: Master’s degree from Cornell University in industrial and labor relations
Political/civic experience: Portland School Committee and Finance Committee, Pine Point Neighborhood Association
Website/social media: www.facebook.com/hamillforcouncil
Robert “Will” Rowan
Residence: Bonney Grove Drive
Family: Married, two daughters
Occupation: Software architect
Education: Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and master’s degree in computer science
Political/civic experience: One term on Scarborough Council, Senior Advisory Committee, Scarborough Housing Alliance, Historic Preservation Implementation Committee, Maine Down Syndrome Network
Website/social media: www.facebook.com/RowanForCouncil