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CAPE ELIZABETH — There are seven candidates for three Town Council seats on the Nov. 3 ballot. Each is for a three-year term.
The candidates recently shared their views on town issues, including the Spurwink Rod & Gun Club’s license application, the proposed village green amendment, the proposed land use ordinance amendment, and the council-mandated reduction of the budget proposed by the School Board last spring.
Polls are open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on Election Day at Cape Elizabeth High School. Absentee ballots are available on the town website and at Town Hall and are due back by Oct. 29 at 4 p.m.
Incumbent Councilor Jessica Sullivan, a fifth-generation Cape Elizabeth resident, has been on the council since 2009 and is seeking her third term. Sullivan said she’s running again because she enjoys the work and has the time to dedicate to it.
Sullivan is on the Ordinance Committee, was the chairwoman of the Solid Waste and Recycling Long Range Planning Committee, and was council chairwoman in 2014. She also initiated the Senior Citizen Advisory Commission.
Sullivan said she believes the gun club dispute will be resolved soon. She said the Town Council handled the issue fairly, and kept both the gun club and Cross Hill neighbors in mind throughout the process.
“Safety has always been the council’s goal,” she said. “I believe our ordinance is the solution.”
Sullivan said she supports the village green amendment, which would modify the maximum setback for village greens in the Town Center District.
“My view is, why not?” she said. “I’d rather drive down Route 77 and look at a garden and a park bench than a parking lot.”
Sullivan said many residents were upset that the council didn’t tell the School Board it wanted a flat budget until the end of the budget process, but she said that’s how it’s done each year.
“The (budget) process is clearly designated by Town Charter and state law and hasn’t changed,” she said. “The School Board has never complained about the process until this year.”
Sullivan, a self-described fiscal conservative, said this was a good year for the School Board to not have an increase in the budget.
“This was a year to thank the town for its support of the schools,” she said. “They had a windfall of money that was unexpected.”
Sullivan said she should be re-elected because she’s not “a one-issue candidate” and has done a lot to help the town.
“I stand out because I have a record of accomplishment for our town as a whole,” she said.
Jamie Garvin, who has lived in Cape Elizabeth for 12 years, works in marketing and has been on the town’s Recycling Committee for six years. He was also on the Solid Waste and Recycling Long Range Planning Committee to develop a plan for the redesign of the town’s Recycling Center.
Garvin said if elected, he will work on issues by looking at the facts.
“I see a real need for people who are going to serve to bring a common sense approach and make decisions driven by facts and not emotions,” he said.
Garvin said the gun club’s license has been an emotional issue, but it’s “been handled thoughtfully and cautiously.” He said it’s not just an issue between neighbors, as some residents have said, but a town-wide issue. Overall, he said he supports the gun club as long it operates safely.
“I see no reason that if the safety measures are in place that the gun club shouldn’t be able to resume operation,” he said.
Garvin said he supports the proposed village green amendment.
“I don’t see a specific downside to it,” he said. “Creating specific places for people to gather would be a benefit to the community.”
Garvin said he also supports the proposed land use amendment, which would allow multi-plex housing to be developed so open space could be preserved. He said research needs to be done first though, to make sure people would actually want to live in that type of housing.
“We shouldn’t have a, ‘if we build it they will come’ mentality,” he said. “We need to have the facts and not rely on assumptions.”
Garvin said when the Town Council held the line on the school budget it upset people not because of the specific dollar amount, but because it was felt the School Board was blindsided.
“I think what it highlighted was the need for better communication and collaboration between the two groups,” he said.
Garvin said despite never holding public office, he’d make a good town councilor.
“Someone coming in with fresh eyes could really make a positive outcome,” he said.
Ralph Miller, better known as Alex, has lived in town since 2000 and works at Tube Hollows International in Windham. He has never held public office, but was once on a community board in Hancock.
Miller said he wants to be on the Town Council because he can “offer well-reasoned thoughts” and wants to “contribute back to this great community.”
“My interest in running is to learn more about the issues,” he said. “I’m a good listener and I’m capable.”
Miller said he thinks the Town Council handled the issues surrounding the gun club well and that it’s been a process from which everyone involved can learn.
“I think the gun club has a right to stay in town,” he said. “That said, they need to run a safe facility.”
Miller said he has some uncertainties about the proposed village green amendment and that he wouldn’t support creating a village green if it meant the land developer would put multi-story buildings on the property as well.
“Do I want to say, ‘Thanks for the village green, here’s your multi-plex?’ No,” he said.
Miller said he does want to “see how things can work together” along Route 77, however.
“What I’d really like to see is an innovative vision for the town and what the trade offs are,” he said.
Regarding the school budget, Miller said the School Board worked hard on the budget and should have been given more notice of what councilors wanted.
“Investment in education benefits the whole community,” he said. “I think my position on Town Council would reflect that.”
Miller said if elected he’ll be able to see and understand different points of view.
“My work background has given me experience in understanding multiple sides of an issue,” he said.
He said that while he doesn’t fully understand all the issues facing the town, he would be going in with a clean slate.
“I’m not bringing heavy pre-conceived notions to the table,” Miller said. “I’m a good listener and I’m interested in getting close to the issues.”
Lennon, a freelance writer and graphic designer, has lived in Cape Elizabeth for 16 years and previously served on the Town Council from 2006-2012. She didn’t seek re-election in the 2012 election.
“I feel that my experience and knowledge of how the process works can be helpful in moving the council in a direction that’s more open and responsive to citizen wishes,” she said.
Lennon said if elected, she would like to see the council ask residents for their input on issues earlier in the process. She said public hearings should be held when an issue is first introduced, instead of after all the work is done by the council and other boards.
As far as the gun club’s license, Lennon said it’s not a political issue and the decision should be made by a safety inspector.
“My feeling is, this is no longer an issue the council should be discussing,” she said. “It’s a public safety issue.”
Lennon said she is not in favor of creating a village green along Route 77 because she doesn’t think residents would use it. She said the town hasn’t heard from “a wide citizenry on this issue” and a survey should be made available.
Lennon also said she isn’t in favor of the land use amendments because multi-unit housing doesn’t belong in town.
“I think Cape’s not a multi-plex town,” she said. “That’s not why people move to Cape.”
Regarding the school budget, Lennon said the Town Council shouldn’t be able to intervene in the School Board’s process. She said it should go directly to the voters.
“If citizens don’t like the budget, vote it down or vote out School Board members,” she said.
She added that if councilors want to cut the school budget, they should attend the board’s budget meetings.
Lennon said she cares very much about process, and her previous experience on Town Council would be helpful if she is elected.
“I know what to avoid and I know what routes are unproductive,” she said. “It’ll make me more effective more quickly.”
Roger Bishop, a nine-year Cape Elizabeth resident, owns a consulting business and was on the town’s Personnel Appeals Board for seven years. In 2012, he unsuccessfully ran for the Maine House of Representatives in District 123.
Bishop said he has “no particular agenda” and just wants to be involved.
“I’m very much in favor of citizens taking an active role in the growing of the community,” he said.
Bishop said, “There’s no reason (the gun club) shouldn’t exist” once it demonstrates shot containment; he feels the Town Council has handled the issue well.
“It became an emotional issue, and once it becomes an emotional issue logic tends to get lost, but I think they handled it well,” he said.
Bishop said he’s in favor of creating a village green, but doesn’t think it should be along Route 77. He said it should be in a more remote part of town that’s not as close to the main road.
Bishop also said he likes the land use amendment and that the town needs multi-unit housing.
“The demographic of the town has changed over a short period of time,” he said. “Affordable housing for seniors is important to me.”
Regarding the School Board budget, Bishop said it should “reflect the inflation of our economy.”
“The School Board and Town Council have done a reasonable job,” he said. “We need to make sure that how we are spending the money is the wisest way to spend it.”
Bishop added that communications between the council and the board can be improved in the future by talking “early and frequently.”
“Communication can always be improved on,” he said. “There are times when emotions sometimes drive behaviors. It’s so important to find that middle ground.”
Bishop said he’d make a good Town Councilor because of his flexible schedule and his “clean slate.” He also said he has 40 years of corporate business experience, which would lend itself to understanding various issues and processes.
“I think I have demonstrated by what I’ve accomplished academically and as a business person that I’m prepared for this role,” he said.
Imogene Altznauer, who has lived in Cape Elizabeth since 2004, owns her own production company and produces live events and concerts. She has no public service experience, but has volunteered with local schools and the YMCA.
She said she wants to be on Town Council so she can be a voice for other residents.
“I have been hearing that people feel like no one is listening to them,” she said. “I feel that it’s time to bring the voice of the people back into the chamber.”
Altznauer said the issue of the gun club’s license has been “a huge learning track for this town.
“It’s at a place now where safety is No. 1 and it’s on track to be compliant,” she said.
Altznauer said she is against putting a village green along Route 77, believing that “The park in front of the library works fine.”
“Do I think we need a village green at the expense of our rural character? No,” she said.
She added that it’s an issue that should go to referendum so residents can vote on it.
Altznauer also said the town doesn’t need multi-unit housing, but thinks it could be “done tastefully.”
“We need to take a hard look at the inventory and assess the need,” she said.
Altznauer said she was “saddened by how (the School Board budget cut) was handled.” She said while she’s fiscally conservative and doesn’t like to spend money frivolously, it’s important to invest in schools.
“I think we should assess needs up front,” she said. “The parameters should have been discussed before (the budget process began).”
If elected, Altznauer said she’d like to increase transparency and communication so residents can have a more active role in the decisions being made. She said there should be “more avenues” for citizens to be heard.
“I’ve done a lot of work within the community,” she said. “More importantly, I want the citizens to know I will work tirelessly to make sure their voices are heard, even if it’s not something I agree with.”
Victoria Volent, a financial and retirement planner, has lived in town for 25 years and has been on the Planning Board for six years. She was the chairwoman for two years, and her term ends this year.
“Many of the issues we’ve worked on on the Planning Board have gone to Town Council,” she said. “As they go up to council, I’d like to see these issues we’ve worked so hard on come to fruition.”
Volent said her experience on the Planning Board has given her knowledge that would be helpful as a councilor.
“Being on the Planning Board would help because I’m familiar with ordinances and issues affecting citizens,” she said.
Regarding the gun club’s license application, Volent said the Town Council needs to “let the ordinance work.”
“The council did put together an ordinance which considers both sides,” she said. “I would like to see the ordinance continue being used an intended.”
Volent said she supports having a village green along Route 77.
“I support open space,” she said. “I think a village green would be a centerpiece to the trail system.”
Volent said she’s also in favor of the land use amendment.
“I’m for diversifying housing to allow people options,” she said. “Multi-plex housing benefits people who are looking for other options.”
She likes the amendment, Volent said, because the town would be allowed to control how development would look.
“We can get something that is attractive,” she said. “I support anything that gives us a little more local control.”
Volent said she is a big supporter of Cape Elizabeth’s schools, which attract new people to town.
“I do support transparency (in the budget process),” she said. “Every year brings its own set of facts.”
Volent said she’d make a good councilor because of her interest in public policy and because she “makes thoughtful decisions.”
“I stand out because I have experience and I have the knowledge,” she said. “I’m very familiar with the ordinances. I’ve worked with them for six years.”