Scarborough Town Council election not for novices
SCARBOROUGH — Two seats, three years, four candidates: Those are the numbers in this year's Town Council election.
Council Vice Chairwoman Judy Roy is the only incumbent in the race after Chairman Ron Ahlquist withdrew last month, but she is running in a field of candidates who have served or at least tested the local political waters.
In a town-wide race run without party affiliations, Roy, 70, of 6 Second Ave., is joined by former Councilor and School Board member Carol Rancourt, 2012 council candidate William Donovan, and 2012 state House District 128 candidate Jean-Marie Caterina.
Each seat has a three-year term. Polls will be open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. in the gym at Scarborough High School on Nov. 5. Absentee ballots are available through Oct. 31 at Town Hall, 259 U.S. Route 1, or online at the town website.
Roy has a cumulative 15 years of experience on the council, and is seeking a third consecutive term. A nurse who works on a per-diem basis at the Maine Veterans' Home, she is also chairwoman of the Council Finance Committee. She has also served as council chairwoman.
She said the decision to run again was not easily made.
"I ask myself that question every day," she said. "It is because I really care about Scarborough and where it is going and where it has been."
Roy's most recent term was clouded by her January 2012 guilty plea to a charge of operating under the influence on Sept. 17, 2011. She said she regrets what occurred.
"I guess I might have thought more about the fact that I was 68 and not 18," Roy said. "Thank God I didn't hurt myself or anybody else. It was very devastating to me, it is not going to be repeated."
Rancourt, 64, of 33 Black Point Road, was unable to seek a fourth consecutive council term last year because of local term limits laws. A benefits specialist with the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, she said she spent the last year deliberately avoiding most council meetings and discussions, but is eager to step into a new three-year term.
"In my year off the council, I consciously decided not to listen and be a Monday morning quarterback," Rancourt said.
Donovan, 66, who ran in 2012 for the seat now held by Councilor Kate St. Clair, lives at 6 Morning St. A retired attorney, he was a School Board member and moderated education budget town meetings in Amherst, N.H., and was also on the Candia, N.H., Planning Board and served as the town attorney.
"I have a strong interest in contributing to the town and think it would benefit from somebody who is willing to work hard on the budgetary issues that are difficult to deal with," Donovan said as he pledged to work for middle- and lower-income residents most affected by rising property taxes.
Caterina's campaign to unseat state Rep. Heather Sirocki, R-Scarborough, in 2012 ended in a narrow defeat. A real estate agent and resident of 311 Gorham Road, Caterina, 58, said her primary focus is to support local education.
"Good schools are the cornerstone to a vibrant town," she said, adding one of the first questions she hears from customers is about the quality of the schools.
The candidates disagreed with the Oct. 2 Town Council vote creating a town-wide leash law for dogs. Caterina and Rancourt said they signed a repeal petition circulated in town.
Roy was one of two councilors who opposed the amendment to the Animal Control Ordinance, saying it went beyond the immediate scope of what was needed to better protect piping plovers on town beaches and to satisfy a consent agreement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
She also opposed the accompanying agreement that reduced a USFWS fine of $12,000 to $500 because the federal agency would not compromise on dates when piping plover protection was needed.
"Without due process (the leash law) was not the best decision on the part of the council, I think,” Rancourt said.
Donovan called for balance, and establishment of dog parks on town land.
"It is appropriate to have regulation that is the least restrictive to respect all members of the community," Donovan said, adding he is equally concerned about residents who do not like seeing or getting approached by dogs off leash and on "voice control."
Caterina said the question is one she knows will come up as soon as she knocks on a door while campaigning.
“If I hear a dog barking, I know what the first question is going to be,” she said as she called the council vote "an overreach." She said she would prefer, however, to settle the question without the cost of a referendum election.
Each candidate said business development is critical, but the future of the 450-acre Crossroads Planned Development District on land owned by Scarborough Downs drew wary responses about the prospect of expanded gambling.
An Aug. 21 council vote amended the district zoning ordinance to make expanded gambling a permitted use if local voters approve. The gambling question is not on the Nov. 5 ballot, but developer Andrew Ingalls and Ed MacColl, the attorney representing track owner Sharon Terry, have said a casino would be a "centerpiece" of proposed mixed-use development.
Rancourt said the council vote was another example of not allowing due process and citizen input. She said she doubts gambling revenues will be as large a windfall as is hoped.
"My personal belief is I am opposed to gambling in Scarborough, but I believe in the will of the people," Rancourt said. "I don't think it will save harness racing and in my opinion, I do not see a casino-based town center."
Caterina said she doubts casino-related jobs will provide living wages for employees.
"It is not a morality issue," she said. "Is it right for the town?"
Donovan said he has no moral opposition to gambling, but is concerned about how the town might adapt to a casino.
"I would want to look carefully at what is in the best interest of town if gambling is approved," he said. "Large-scale gambling would be a challenge to the town. It would raise challenges most towns never face."
Roy said expanded gambling as a permitted use was reviewed through the district planning process even as the amendment to the zoning was approved just before the final council vote. She declined to discuss her views on expanded gambling, saying it is up to the voters and the state Gambling Control Board, which may not approve any new casino licenses.
While councilors do not have line-item veto power on the School Department budget, Rancourt and Caterina said they would work to create a better understanding of school spending and how the budget process differs from creating a municipal budget.
Caterina said she will host monthly constituent meetings throughout town if she wins.
Donovan, who called himself "passionate about the public school system," said he will make it a priority to learn more about education budgeting and the conditions and needs in local schools.
Roy said the process has become easier because of joint meetings between the School Board and Town Council, and added residents could get a clearer picture of what goes on by paying attention early in the budget process.
She added the Finance Committee now meets Tuesday mornings with meetings rebroadcast on the town website. Ready to see a new, more user-friendly website, Roy said it is still up to residents to keep themselves informed.
"With rights," she said, "come responsibilities."