CAPE ELIZABETH — Candidates for Town Council and School Board on Oct. 20 agreed on most issues brought up at the annual forum hosted by Cape Elizabeth High School’s advanced placement government class.
Town Council candidates Caitlin Jordan, who is running for her third term, and her distant cousin, Penny Jordan, spoke about Fort Williams Park, the town center, and cellular service. Candidate Shannon Auritt, who has never held office, but has volunteered on education committees in town, didn’t attend the forum due to illness. The three candidates are running for two seats in the Nov. 8 election.
School Board candidates Susana Measelle Hubbs, who is running for her second term, and Kimberly Carr spoke about school safety, student activity fees, and high school start times. The two candidates are running uncontested.
The Town Council candidates’ forum was hosted by students Kinnon McGrath and Amelia Melanson. The students started by asking the two Jordans, if they think the town should charge visitors a fee at Fort Williams Park.
Penny Jordan said before the idea of enacting a fee can be decided, the town needs to discuss the future of the park.
“I think Fort Williams is at a point in its evolution that requires us to step back and ask what we want Fort Williams to be,” she said. “I don’t know if additional fees is the answer.”
Caitlin Jordan noted that the town has put the question of parking fees to voters twice, in 2006 and in 2010; it was defeated both times. She echoed Penny Jordan on how the town needs to consider the park’s future before making any big decisions.
Also, Caitlin Jordan said the town needs to strike a balance when it comes to improvement projects in the park.
“I think we should definitely make the improvements, but we need to figure out a balance of the crowds versus how much it’s going to cost versus where that money’s going to come from,” she said.
The town center was also a topic of discussion, with the students asking the candidates about broadening the tax base and developing vacant lots.
“I’m not sure we can grow much more economic development here in town,” Caitlin Jordan said. “There’s only so much town center space.”
Caitlin Jordan added that developing the town center too quickly could backfire.
“If we expand too much too quickly… you only have so many dollars that can go only so far, so if you spread them across too many businesses, everybody goes broke,” she said. “So we have to be very careful in how we expand.”
Penny Jordan agreed, and added that a lot of residents shop outside of town. She said it’d be hard to get people to shop in Cape Elizabeth, which makes economic development a challenge for the town.
“It’s really hard being a small business in this town,” Penny Jordan said. “I think we do need to look at the diversification of our tax base.”
Both candidates talked about vacant lots in the town center and said nothing can be done to develop them if they’re not town-owned.
Caitlin and Penny Jordan also discussed the need to improve cellular service throughout the entire town.
“I think we should do just about anything that’s going to improve cell service in Cape Elizabeth,” Caitlin Jordan said.
She added that she encourages cell phone companies to propose building cellular towers in town because a lot of residents have little or no cell service at their homes.
Penny Jordan agreed, saying she wants everyone in town to have cell phone service.
“We definitely need to look at other places in town where cell service or cell towers could be implemented,” she said.
Penny Jordan added that the town should be making sure the cellular towers being built are powerful enough to reach large areas of town.
Student Rose Baillie moderated the forum between School Board candidates Hubbs and Carr.
Following two incidents at the schools in March involving a bomb threat and a lock down due to an unwanted visitor, the candidates talked about safety and how to make students feel more secure.
Hubbs said the most important way to make students and parents feel safe is to have strong communication.
“I think communication is the best way to reassure people that we have a protocol in place,” she said. “There aren’t loopholes out there that are used to get by.”
Carr said the incidents in March were learning opportunities for the district and that the schools “reacted promptly.”
“I think there are more changes that are going to need to happen, but I think we’ve done a great job in the last six to eight months,” she said.
Regarding fees that students have to pay to participate in sports and extracurricular activities, both candidates said they’re necessary to maintain the programs.
“I wouldn’t want to risk losing the programs for which we’re charging fees,” Carr said.
Hubbs said she understands the fees can create a “hardship” for families, but that the School Board budget can’t support all student programs.
“I would rather have a system set up so parents are asked to pay rather than having to make cuts in the budget elsewhere,” she said.
Both candidates said they would favor implementing a later start time at the high school.
Election Day is Nov. 8 and voting will take place at Cape Elizabeth High School from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee voting is underway at Town Hall until Nov. 3.
The Cape Elizabeth High School advanced placement government class on Oct. 20 hosted a municipal candidates’ night for Town Council and School Board candidates. From left are Town Councilor Caitlin Jordan, students Kinnon McGrath and Amelia Melanson, and Town Council candidate Penny Jordan.