Candidates share ideas at Cape Elizabeth forum

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The five uncontested candidates for the Nov. 8 municipal election shared their opinions Wednesday night in a forum organized by Cape Elizabeth High School students.

The Nov. 8 municipal elections are uncontested, barring any write-in candidacies.

The candidates answered questions posed by the members of the Advanced Placement government class, the audience and residents watching on cable TV who called in from home.

In the School Board elections, two first-time candidates, Elizabeth Scifres of Longfellow Drive and Joanna Morrisey of Old Fort Road, are seeking three-year terms. Current board Chairwoman Mary Townsend of Pearl Street will run unopposed for the two years remaining in the term previously held by Kimberly Monaghan-Derrig, who was recently elected to the state House of Representatives.

In the Town Council election, Chairman David Sherman of Hunts Road is unopposed for another three-year term. School Board member Kathy Ray of Spurwink Avenue is unopposed for the other open seat on the council. She would replace Councilor Anne Swift-Kayatta, who is not seeking re-election.

School Board

High school senior Will McCarthy moderated the School Board discussion. He gave the candidates a chance to provide opening and closing statements, to answer open-ended questions and to participate in a lightning round with only yes or no responses.

All three candidates said they hope to maintain current programs given the impending cuts to state aid to schools. But they agreed they didn’t know what programs or services they would cut if necessary. 

Townsend said with there are many transitions this year, with a new superintendent and a new director of instructional support. She said her goals for the coming year are to support the new superintendent, work on the budget and update the district’s mission and vision statement.

Since they would be first-time board members, Scifres and Morrisey said their goal is to learn as much as they can about school issues, to work with other board members and the community.

They all said they would not support cutting the laptop computer program at the middle school. They said rather than take away the technology, they would find ways to address problems like cyber bullying at schools, in the home and on a community level. They also said they would not favor pulling laptops in the district as a way to increase attention in class.

“Technology is a part of our world now, and our students need to learn how to balance that,” Townsend said.

During the lightning round, Morrisey said she is satisfied with the current educational climate in the schools, while Townsend and Scifres said they were not. All candidates said they were not satisfied with the progress made by the schools in literacy education.

Scifres and Morrisey said they do not support parking fees at the high school, while Townsend said she does.

All candidates said they support using metal silverware in the high school cafeteria and would defer to the administration on whether dances should be banned.

“I think a good idea is to put the onus put back on the students, if the students want to have dances, the students can figure out a way among themselves how to have appropriate behavior,” Scifres said. “If students want to do something, they will figure out how to have their peers do what needs to be done.”

Town Council

In the council forum, high school student Emily Muscat served as moderator. 

Both Ray and Sherman said they do not support access fees at Fort Williams Park, but they would be willing to investigate other use fees, like the food vendor program or fees for wedding venues.

They also said they would like to attract more business to Cape Elizabeth. Ray said she would support continuing the food vending program in the park and would like to explore more options for business in the Town Center.

Sherman said he would not support big-box stores, but would like to continue to enhance the ability for businesses to succeed by creating ordinances to allow more business opportunities, on farmland as well as in the Town Center. He said he likes the idea of a local Chamber of Commerce to get local businesses involved in finding ways to attract more businesses to Cape.

Sherman said he would support the construction of a new Thomas Memorial Library over renovating the existing building, while Ray said she would need more information on the plan before she could formulate an opinion.

Ray said her last eight years on the School Board will serve her well on the council.

“I’ve learned that no one individual makes a decision for the others, they act as a group,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about the schools and I understand the budget of the town having lived here my whole life.”

Sherman said his prior experience on the council has helped him better understand the issues facing the community and has taught him how to gather information, listen to residents and seek the opinions of fellow councilors.

He said serving six years as a Planning Board member gave him an understanding of the zoning ordinance and his four years on the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation board – including one year as president of a campaign that helped raise $750,000 for the schools – has taught him about the schools and how to raise private funds. 

During the lightning round, both Sherman and Ray said they would support the conservation of more open public land, and agreed the educational benefits of a possible iPad program at the high school would outweigh potential distractions.

Sherman and Ray said they would both support adding a full-time paid rescue position. Sherman said he would not support bringing police dispatchers back to the community, and Ray said she did not know.

The candidate forum will be rebroadcast on CETV Channel 3 on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 2 p.m., 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Election Day is Nov. 8. Polls will be open at the Cape Elizabeth High School gymnasium from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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Absentee ballots, early voting available in Cape Elizabeth

CAPE ELIZABETH — Absentee ballots are available at Town Hall until 4 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3, for the Nov. 8 municipal election.

Requests for absentee ballots to be mailed or delivered must also be received by the town clerk’s office by 4 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Residents may register to vote at the town clerk’s office prior to Nov. 8, or at the polls on Election Day. Proof of residency and proof of identity are required.

In-person absentee voting is available at Town Hall on Mondays from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday through Fridays from 7:30 am. to 4 p.m.

On Election Day, polls are open at the Cape Elizabeth High School from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information, contact Town Clerk Debra Lane at 799-7665.

— Amy Anderson

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