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FALMOUTH — There are two candidates running in the June 12 election to fill the two-year vacancy created when Andy Jones resigned in March from the Town Council.
Edward “Ted” Asherman and John Lane are both political neophytes. Both said they support the Falmouth schools and both also said they’re committed to the town’s tradition of conserving open space.
Asherman is a lifelong resident of Falmouth and still lives in the house where he grew up. Lane arrived in town about 10 years ago.
Asherman is 70 and is a retired CPA and business consultant who was a principal at BerryDunn in Portland. He’s married, and has two grown children, one of whom lives next door.
Asherman served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War and graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a bachelor’s degree in business and accounting.
He is chairman of the town’s Land Management and Acquisitions Committee and treasurer of the Falmouth Land Trust.
“As a lifelong resident of Falmouth, I am committed to helping Falmouth prosper while maintaining its character,” he said in campaign materials. “And as an active volunteer within our community, I have an excellent understanding of our opportunities and of our challenges.”
Asherman believes his background in finance gives him an edge and said if elected to the Town Council he would, “maintain the outstanding quality of our schools, keep our taxes low, encourage economic development and steward our environment.”
In an interview, Asherman said he’s running for a seat on the Town Council because “I’ve been involved in town matters for a while and (believe) I have a lot to offer, especially in terms of my leadership and financial background.”
He said the biggest issues facing Falmouth include keeping up the school system in the face of continual cuts in state aid to education. For fiscal year 2019, for instance, the schools lost about $700,000.
Another important issue, Asherman said, is ensuring the town continues its commitment to “open space, trails and protecting the environment. We’re the envy of those around us and our (open space) is the No. 2 reason people move to town.”
What Asherman most appreciates is that “trails create a sense of community. They get people out of their cars and away from their computers and foster connectedness.”
When it comes to taxes, Asherman said his goal would be keeping any increases to a minimum. “We have a pretty low mill rate, but high property values. If we want the elderly and young people to live here, it needs to be affordable.”
“While bond rates are low,” Asherman said, it makes sense to invest in large capital improvement projects, such as the recent $12 million project to revitalize the Route 1 business corridor and the $10 million plan to upgrade Route 100.
“But going forward we need to be mindful of our bonded indebtedness,” he said. “We have a pretty full workload ahead in terms of capital improvements and we’ve been doing plenty.”
In terms of a recent petition that sought to overturn the creation of growth districts on the east and west ends of town, which town attorneys decided was invalid, Asherman said, “without a doubt, Falmouth’s most significant challenge is managing growth.”
That said, he added, “The concept of focusing growth (in certain areas of town) makes sense as it reduces infrastructure investment and operating costs. Further, it encourages a connected community and minimizes environmental impacts.”
Asherman said he is not sure how he would vote on a contract zone proposal to bring more than 100 housing units to West Falmouth, but said “contract zoning should not simply be an open door to skirt regulations and well-established standards.”
Lane is 44 and teaches science at South Portland High School. He lives in West Falmouth, is married and has three children who attend Falmouth schools.
He is vice president of the teachers union in South Portland and is the union’s chief contract negotiator. Lane is also a volunteer coach with a program that introduces young children to running and is interested in the work of Falmouth’s bicycle and pedestrian committee.
A 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, Lane said he’s been considering running for the Town Council for a while, but it’s the “hubbub over the new growth districts and the contract zone that’s gotten me more actively involved.”
When asked about the issues facing Falmouth, Lane said in an interview, “I’m most worried about how the Town Council has lost its way in hearing what people want for the community.”
“People are concerned” and are against the contract zone, “but the council just doesn’t seem to hear that and it feels like (the project) is already a done deal, which is super frustrating.
“I’m not opposed to growth,” Lane said, “(but) it has to be done in a way that benefits the community as a whole. And not asking intelligent questions about the impact (is problematic).”
Lane noted his son will be a freshman at the high school next year and there’s not enough room for everyone to eat lunch in the cafeteria. “We need to talk about solutions before we open the floodgates to this giant development,” he said of the contract zone proposal.
If elected to the council, Lane said he would “keep supporting the schools,” which he called “fantastic” and would also “continue the town’s commitment to open space and conservation.”
When it comes to bonding for capital projects, he said, it would be fine, as long as any such project is “properly vetted and it makes sense for the whole community and is not just lining the pockets of a few.”
That’s been one criticism of the Route 100 project, which voters approved in 2014. Councilor Andrea Ferrante, who led the Route 100 Committee, is now one of the co-developers behind the proposed contract zone.
Speaking about the creation of the growth districts, which were approved in 2016, and the recent petition to overturn them, Lane said, “I’m not necessarily opposed to growth zones, if they’re properly planned and they’re designated in appropriate areas.”
But in this case, he said, “there’s been a betrayal of trust.”
It’s unclear if the current council will hold a final vote on the contract zone prior to the June 12 election. Town Manager Nathan Poore this week said he’s unsure of the schedule. The council will meet twice, May 14 and 30, before Election Day.
Lane said he hopes the council will defer from making a decision on the contract zone until after the election, especially because there are three seats on the ballot and Ferrante is prevented from voting under the conflict of interest rules.
“I would prefer that they wait until after the election for something of this magnitude,” he said. “It would be the right thing to do. Otherwise, I think residents would be ready to take them to task.”
Both candidates said they want residents to vote their conscience at the polls and pick the person they believe will do the best job.
“Whatever (the people) decide they’ll have my support,” Lane said.
Asherman said he hopes “people get out to vote and that we have a healthy turnout.”