Thu, Dec 18, 2014 ●
BathHarpswellTopshamBrunswickCumberlandNorth YarmouthFalmouthFreeportPortlandCape ElizabethScarboroughSouth PortlandChebeague IslandYarmouth

Editorial: Where we stand on local and state ballot questions

Opinion

Editorial: Where we stand on local and state ballot questions

There are several local ballot questions facing voters in The Forecaster coverage area Nov. 3, and seven more facing all voters on the statewide ballot. Here's where we stand on them:

South Portland

The debate over whether dogs should be allowed, and to what extent, on Willard Beach has gone on much too long – seemingly endless City Council debate, a task force study and now the public referendum.

We believe the city's existing ordinance, which allows dogs to roam off leash and under voice control 15 hours a day from October through April, while limiting them to two hours each morning and evening the rest of the year, is appropriate.

Given the lack of overwhelming evidence that dogs have either harmed, injured or frightened large numbers of beach goers, and the task force's finding of only minor levels of contamination on the beach from dog feces, our sense is that NIMBY-ism is responsible for much of the demand for tighter control of dogs.

Dog owners, however, should be cautioned: they must be caretakers of the beach, perhaps more so than other beach users, and ever respectful of those who prefer little or no canine contact while strolling or sunbathing. Anything less will undoubtedly bring this question back, with a much different outcome.

We urge residents to reject the proposed ordinance and maintain the status quo on the beach.

Residents will also be asked, again, to amend  the City Charter to allow the city to use the Maine State Municipal Bond Bank's Revolving Loan program. Voters overwhelmingly backed this change in June, but turnout was too low for the vote to count.

The charter requires the city to put all of its bonds out to a public bid. The change, after a two-thirds vote of the City Council, would allow the city to borrow directly from the municipal bond bank, which provides low- to no-interest loans. Residents would still have to approve any city borrowing in a citywide referendum.

Tuesday's vote, and turnout, should push through the update.  

Scarborough

Twice before, Scarborough voters have approved bonds for land acquisition and protection. And each time town officials have spent the money wisely and prudently; in fact, there's a balance of about $2.4 million from those previous bonds.

But acquisition opportunities often appear unexpectedly and disappear quickly. This year, the town has another opportunity to leverage the town's money with matching funds, coupled with the opportunity to take advantage of lower real estate prices.

With a solid record of land stewardship to rely on, residents should vote to make the additional funds available.

Harpswell 

Two articles on a Special Town Meeting warrant are backed by the Harpswell Board of Selectmen.

Article 2 would authorize selectmen to act as the conduit for a $40,000 Community Development Block Grant for the Greater Brunswick Housing Corp., a local non-profit housing organization that is working with Harpswell Community Housing Trust on the Hamilton Place workforce housing project.

Last March, Town Meeting voters rejected an allocation of $50,000 for the development. Now that grant funding has been found, we believe voters should approve the project.

Article 3 would grant an easement to FairPoint Communications to install communications equipment on the town's new cell tower near the transfer station on Mountain Road.

Despite FairPoint's financial problems, the equipment is needed and voters should approve the easement.

North Yarmouth

There are four amendments to the Town Charter on the North Yarmouth ballot. All four will create efficiencies and modernize town government, and should be approved.

Here are the Sun Media editorial board opinions on the ballot issues facing voters across Maine on Nov. 3:

Question 1

Whether to allow same-sex marriages resonates differently inside every Mainer, depending on the unique social ingredients that have comprised their lives. For some, it is an issue of nature. For others, it is nurture. Marriages are either unbreakable, sacred contracts with God and spouse – or just the filing status on your tax return. It all matters what you believe.

Same-sex marriage has sparked a clash of many ideals; one overrules them: The principle of a democracy, the system where popular sentiment is the ultimate authority. Not the Legislature. Not the Bishop. Not the activists. Not the faithful.

On Question 1, vote your belief, not what others say you should believe.

Question 2

We dislike Maine's automobile excise tax, but cutting the excise tax like this would be worse than leaving it intact. Question 2 will create an unavoidable tax shift that will be felt on property taxes. The money must come from somewhere; that somewhere will be owners of homes and commercial property.

Vote no on Question 2.

Question 3

School consolidation is a work in progress, this much is true. But for Maine, it is work that should continue.

Maine has too many school districts for its declining school-age population. As pupil counts decrease, the costs of delivering education must as well. Consolidation targets administrative overhead. Maine should stay the course that consolidation has started, and not allow work of the past two years to perhaps come undone.

But those districts that wish to pay the fiscal penalty for nonconforming should be allowed to do so. The Freeport-Pownal-Durham union needs attention, for example, because residents of the smaller rural towns have real concerns of their representation and future.

While there are problems with consolidation, we feel they are more easily handled individually than by sweeping away the law. We urge readers to vote no on Question 3, and let the consolidation law stand.

Question 4

The time has come for TABOR. On Nov. 3, we urge a yes vote on Question 4, to enact the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

We are concerned that the timing of this initiative is poor; the recession has caused revenue to plummet, and capping spending at recession levels is disquieting. We have faith, though, in the government to be up front with voters about its needs, and voters to grant government what it requires to operate.

There is no perfect time for TABOR. Yes, the revenue projections for the state are dismal; blame the economic downturn for this. But also blame the lack of foresight by policymakers in restraining spending during boom times. For years, the message has been clearly sent to Augusta that what's coming out is not commensurate with what's going in. It's too much.

The recession is evidence that you reap what you sow. It is time to do things differently in Maine.

Question 5

Ten years ago, Maine voters legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. A wise method of procuring marijuana, however, was never created by the Legislature. So the state's handful of medical marijuana users either grow their own in small amounts or break the law to comply with the law.

Question 5 now comes before voters this year, asking to create a system of nonprofit dispensaries to allow legitimate patients legal access to marijuana. It seems only fair – lawmakers have had a solid decade to regulate drug dispensing related to the 1999 marijuana law, and simply haven't.

And it would be – if Question 5 were creating marijuana dispensaries that weren't standalone entities, but directly affiliated with doctors, hospitals or pharmacies. This proposed system is fraught with potential problems for law enforcement and regulation and should not be instituted.

Vote no on Question 5.

Question 6

The low interest rates and need for transportation funding (given the recession and gas tax revenues) make Question 6, the transportation bond, necessary. The money is needed, and at least the state will be borrowing when money is cheap.

Vote yes on Question 6.

Question 7

Question 7 just makes sense. Town clerks are the last line of validation for important referendums; if they think they need more time, they should get it. There's no damage to the process or to democracy, so it should be approved.