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CAPE ELIZABETH — Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Town Council in the November municipal election.
Council Chairwoman Jessica Sullivan and Councilor Sara Lennon are not seeking re-election. Incumbent Councilor Jamie Garvin is running again, and is challenged by Valerie Deveraux, Jeremy Gabrielson, James Tasse and John Voltz.
Barring write-in candidates, the election for three seats on the School Board will be uncontested. Incumbents Heather Altenburg and Elizabeth Scifres are running to keep their seats and Laura DeNino, of Steeplebush Road, is seeking the seat being vacated by Voltz.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. at Cape Elizabeth High School on Nov. 6.
Deveraux said she is running because she feels her professional experience could lend unique insight and “fresh” perspectives on issues such as land disputes and updating the Comprehensive Plan.
“The way our world is right now, we either need to step up and help or not complain,” she said. “I have the experience and this is my opportunity to give back.”
If elected, Deveraux said she would focus on listening to the concerns, needs and priorities of residents.
One of these concerns she said, is “policing” at the transfer station, which is sometimes used by nonresidents. She’d also like to see the town do more to educate residents about what can and can’t be recycled.
Deveraux said it is “reasonable” for the council to again take up the discussion of parking fees at Fort Williams Park.
“The maintenance on the roads (from tour bus traffic) and things we pay as taxpayers could be offset by charging a small fee,” she said.
Deveraux said she is an advocate for the town’s schools and would like to help ensure the quality is maintained. She even considered running for a seat on the School Board, she said.
Her experience as a mediator, she added, could help provide collaboration between the School Board and Town Council during the budget process. She noted that she didn’t have enough information on the board’s proposed $249,000 facility study, which didn’t make it into this year’s budget, but wondered if there was a more cost-effective way for it to be done.
As far as the debate and ongoing litigation around paper streets, Deveraux said it’s important for the town to preserve its rights to open space to protect it from future development. She commended the councilors and residents who have spoken on the matter.
“Access is super important,” she said. “My take on it is that we need to preserve our open space.”
With a background in local government, Gabrielson said he is looking to get more involved in town and to be a “strong voice on the council for conservation issues.”
He’d also like to take part in discussions of possible renovations to the schools, where his children are students.
“Part of the reason Cape Elizabeth is such a great place to live is the fact that it has decent access to open space,” Gabrielson said. “We also have great schools. Both of those things are key to the strengths of the town.”
Gabrielson said he considers paper street discussions separate from the general idea of conserving open space.
He said he was encouraged by the council’s recent vote not to accept a $500,000 settlement to vacate the town’s claim to an undeveloped portion of the so-called Surfside Avenue paper street.
“I understand the sensitivity, but I also think the town really needs to preserve the access that we have,” he said. “Getting more of it is not a cheap or viable option.”
Gabrielson said he’s also interested in exploring how the town can promote recycling and broader sustainability policies, potentially by implementing a sustainability committee or coordinator.
Gabrielson said he is not in favor of charging for parking at Fort Williams Park. He said there are other ways, such as the fee structure already in place, where the town could generate more revenue.
“We as a town don’t want to be seen as erecting barriers to access the park,” he said. “… My gut instinct says we should not be going (toward pay-and-display).”
Looking at how school facilities could be improved is one area where Gabrielson said increased collaboration between the council and School Board would be helpful.
“They’re municipal buildings and a major town asset,” he said.
Garvin said he is seeking a second term on the council because serving has been one of the “highest honors” of his life and he thinks he’s making a positive difference.
He added that his experience and familiarity with town processes makes him a strong candidate. What Garvin said is a “hallmark of (his) approach” is to make himself “excessively accessible” to everyone in town, no matter the matter at hand.
Garvin said he thinks the most important item in front of the town right now is completion of the Comprehensive Plan update.
He also sees figuring out how to generate revenue to offset operating costs at Fort Williams Park as a top priority. Garvin said he’s “open-minded” about parking fees, but would first like to make sure the town is “getting the maximum revenue from the fees we already have in place.”
Garvin said he’s “uncomfortable” having Cape residents pay a fee and “even slightly uncomfortable” making Maine residents pay. He added that he’d like to slow down the discussion about pay-and-display parking.
Last week, Garvin voted against the proposed $500,000 Surfside Avenue settlement, but said he still hopes to find some compromise between the plaintiffs and town, rather than “battling it out in court.”
Another issue facing the town, Garvin said, is anticipated staff turnover, specifically those who are department heads.
“How we deal with and accommodate that is going to be a really important thing,” he said.
Garvin said he’d like to continue working on an open dialogue between the council and School Board, while “respecting clearly drawn, separate roles.” He said he’s also curious to see if the town and schools could each have their own operating budgets, but combine capital expenses, saying the town can’t keep taking the “same approach to the same old problems.”
Further, he would like to explore how school renovations could be included in the municipal budget, as school and municipal budgets all come from the same pool of taxpayer dollars.
“There are other buildings in town that may need examination so you could gain some efficiencies of scale,” he said.
Tasse ran for Town Council last year, but was defeated by Councilors Chris Straw and Valerie Randall. He said he decided to run again because he thinks he can make a difference.
“(Last year) I didn’t really get a chance to put as much effort into the campaign as I hope to this year,” he said. “I have a little more time to follow through and build on the lessons I learned last year.”
Tasse said his priorities would be to preserve public access to open space and improve walking and biking conditions in town by implementing or expanding sidewalks on streets like Mitchell Road and Fowler Road.
Echoing the Conservation Committee’s stance, Tasse said a means of preserving public access would be maintaining or accepting the town’s rights to paper streets.
He also said the council did the right thing by not accepting the Surfside Avenue settlement.
“I don’t want to get into a position where people with wealth are able to close off public access to the rest of the community,” he said. “… I have perhaps been one of the people most involved in preserving the town’s rights to paper streets. … Once those rights are gone, they’re gone forever. If some monetary settlement is achieved, I think it should be more in proportion to the value of the real estate we’re giving up.”
Tasse said another issue facing the town is development pressure, which could be helped by adopting a Comprehensive Plan that will “guide the build-out of the town in a way that preserves public access to open space and makes it easy to get around in ways besides just driving in a car.”
Tasse said he is in favor of parking fees at Fort Williams Park, but thinks they should be “low (and) reasonable.”
“Cape Elizabeth does not need to fund a regional tourist (destination) on the back of the taxpayers,” he said.
Although he sees the needs for improvements to schools, Tasse said $249,000 is “exorbitant” for a facility study.
Voltz said he decided to run for the council, rather than another term on the School Board, because he could offer some “depth, analysis and guidance” that could help town staff develop and enhance what they already have.
One of his priorities, he said, would be to improve the town’s governance and reporting standards.
“We need clear and concise (reports) to help people get real data to make informed decisions,” he said.
Voltz also said he’s “concerned that there’s some imprecision” in discussions of the Comprehensive Plan between wanting the town’s rural character to be preserved, while also hearing from residents that they want different types of development.
In general, Voltz said he’s in favor of “user fees” at Fort Williams Park, but not fees that would have a big impact on the community.
“It’s really about … a fee structure that manages peak use and allows for continued resident usage,” he said.”Have as limited an impact as possible, while still recognizing that we’re managing a major tourist attraction.”
Voltz said “broadly speaking,” he’s “very pro-coastal access,” but the paper street debate is a “Maine legislative and legal minefield” with a lot of “messy details.” In order to make an informed decision on the dispute around Surfside Avenue, Voltz said there needs to be public data about the assessed value of the land now and in the future.
Voltz said he thinks a “one-town concept” needs to be revisited to clarify how town staff, boards and committees in conflict can resolve issues.
“Right now it’s not serving anyone,” he said. “There’s no guiding governing document.”
In terms of the budget process between the council and School Board, Voltz said it needs to be carried out in a “longer-term fashion.” He suggested having the Town Council produce data on the cost of “high-quality education” and figure out where Cape Elizabeth “falls on the scale.”
“If the Town Council wants to own that number … they have an obligation to put that number in context with real data,” he said.
Residence: Shore Road
Family: Three children, four grandchildren
Occupation: Lawyer with experience in real estate, commercial litigation and family law, mediator with the Courts of Maine and Maine Association of Mediators, college admission consultant
Education: University of California degree in psychobiology; law degree from Western State University College of Law; completing master’s in conflict resolution at Fresno Pacific University
Political/civic experience: CEHS volunteer with speech & debate team, Project Graduation and theater boosters. Former board member of Three Rivers Union School Education Trust
Website/social media: www.letsgetprepped.org, www.facebook.com/Valerie-Deveraux-for-Cape-Elizabeth-Town-Council
Residence: Rocky Knoll Road
Family: Wife and two children
Occupation: Conservation planner
Education: Georgetown University, Masters in Community Planning and Development from the University of Southern Maine, Muskie School
Political/civic: Chairman of the Cape Elizabeth Conservation Committee. Previous member of city of Portland Community Development Block Grant Allocation Committee, town of Machias Planning Board. Served on the board of directors of Downeast Coastal Conservancy and the Down East Institute for Applied Marine Research.
Website/social media: None
Residence: Cliff Avenue
Occupation: Assistant director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine
Education: Ph.D. in English, University of Colorado
Political/civic experience: Cape Elizabeth Conservation Committee member for five years, involved in numerous trail and access issues in Cape Elizabeth
Website/social media: www.facebook.com/JTforCapeE/
Age: Not disclosed
Residence: Phillip Road
Family: Married, two children
Occupation: Consultant, finance and business development
Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology from Grinnell College; Master of Finance and Marketing, University of California
Political/civic experience: Member of the Cape Elizabeth School Board, chairman of School Board Finance Committee
Website/social media: None