2018-10-05 / Letters

Election Letters

Writers share views on upcoming vote

To the editor,

Last spring, I wrote a letter stating that the Scarborough Board of Educaation recall was about accountability. Effective leaders don’t simply claim their victories; they can admit when they have made mistakes, had regrets, or changed their minds. Board leadership had failed to accept responsibility for their decisions and the subsequent fallout, supporting ill-conceived plans without adequate infrastructure in place.

Accountability is about owning ones actions and the consequences that follow, both positive and negative. There are four candidates who do just that: Amy Glidden, Alicia Giftos, April Sither and Paul Johnson.

As leaders of Road to Renewal, they successfully held the board accountable, recalling three members. Now, these four candidates are holding themselves accountable by running for office. They are not retreating from the spotlight, but stepping up to take more responsibility.

Alicia, Amy, April and Paul are ready and willing to take responsibility for their role in the recall, and offer the type of accountable leadership that is critical to move forward.

Kristen Nilsen

To the editor,

My husband and I moved to Scarborough because we think it is a perfect location due to its proximity to Portland and Boston, its strong school system and its beautiful beaches.

Our first home in this town happened to be next door to the Risbara family. The Risbaras welcomed us to this community, taught us about their love and pride for this town and its history and treated us like an extension of their family.

Scarborough is my kids’ hometown. We love this place and feel it deserves the best of everything.

For me, this project is about the future of the town. The Downs property is a perfect, centrally located option for a much-needed town center. Currently, Scarborough has 30,000 acres of land, but everything is decentralized. Other towns benefit from the unifying presence of a town center. Through the years, I have spent too much time in other towns at sporting events or meeting to get-together with friends.

The Downs property provides endless potential to develop a true community meeting place for the town. This is a longterm business deal that makes sense for Scarborough’s future. I wish the town would have done this years ago.

I know it’s a big decision and any big decision comes with questions. Still, I know that the Risbara brothers love Scarborough and want only the best for this town. This project is what Scarborough needs.

Holly Lancaster

To the editor,

I would like to put aside my candidacy for town council, my role in the recall, and all town politics for a moment, to express my support for Nick Gill.

Nick is running for board of education this November. He is not running to create more discord in Scarborough. He is not running to remove our superintendent. Nick is running because he loves this town and the people that live here.

Nick Gill has holds a PhD in education. He is the associate dean of institutional research and development at York County Community College and a native of Scarborough. He is the most objective and rational person I’ve had the privilege of knowing. I can only aspire to be at Nick’s level of integrity and honesty.

Scarborough needs Nick’s wisdom, talent and experience on its board of education. His qualifications surpass all of the other 14 candidates running for board seats (and the four of us running for council). If there was ever a candidate we should all support, it is Nick.

Vote down whatever lines you want to in November. But, vote Nick Gill if you truly want what is best for this town.

Paul Johnson

To the editor,

I was pleased to read that Emily Read is a candidate for a one-year term on the Scarborough School Board. I first came to know Emily when we served together on the Scarborough Library Board of Trustees.

During her six years of service to our community, Emily respected other opinions and worked collaboratively to achieve common goals. She does not have an agenda nor is she a grandstander.

Based on personal experience, I am confident that Emily will listen and consider varying viewpoints. But her decisions will adhere to an overarching principle: to provide the best education possible for every child attending a public school in Scarborough.

For these reasons, I endorse Emily Read for a one-year term on the Scarborough School Board.

Emily Ward

To the editor,

Many have voiced a serious concern over the CEA (Credit Enhancement Agreement) tax break for the Downs developers and over the speed at which its apparent approval is being pushed forward.

Concurrently, town leadership ignores all citizen pleas for a voter referendum. I fear the community anxiety level is about to skyrocket. As of Sept. 30, I have yet to see specifics on the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district. My research indicates the maximum permitted starting valuation for a Scarborough downtown TIF district covering Oak Hill to Scarborough Downs to be $188 million which would vastly exceed any existing TIF in the state of Maine.

Over the next 30 years the property taxes from that TIF district’s valuation growth will easily sum into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The alarm is that these funds are not restricted to the general fund to cover school budgets and town services. The property taxes from TIF growth are under the complete control of the town leadership with no TIF rules stipulating any of these funds for the general fund.

Granted these dollars can be used for schools and services, but that is not a certainty. Our property taxes might increase significantly to make up for the hundreds of millions in taxes that go to majority rule town council projects without any need for voter approval.

Decades back, our town hall was constructed via TIF funds bypassing the voter and two failed referendums. But wait, the story gets even better. As of this letter submittal, the public hearing on the TIF/ CEA is proposed for Oct. 24. Councilors Babine, Caiazzo and Rowan are currently campaigning for elected office.

My guess is that the actual town council vote for the TIF/CEA will be scheduled for the Nov. 7 meeting putting it one day after the Nov. 6 election.

This Nov. 7 meeting is also the last meeting before a new council is seated. Talk about coincidence. How fortunate for those seeking an election win and wishing not to have their vote on the TIF/ CEA become a decision factor with the Scarborough citizens.

John Frazier

To the editor,

As you are making your decision on all of the candidates for Scarborough board of education and town council, I encourage you to listen carefully to the tenor of the candidates.

Listen for candidates who intend to hear all sides before making decisions and who intend to focus on collaboration and communication while also moving the schools forward in a positive way. Listen for people who are looking for more information before having a set agenda. Listen for compassion and empathy, in addition to strong leadership skills.

Stacey Neumann is one of those people.

Stacey is smart, direct, thoughtful and conscientious. She will work hard to bring people together, open lines of communication and come to decisions that make sense. Stacey has a way of lightening the room with her humor and helping people feel at ease, while moving forward with the tasks at hand. She is compassionate and has our kids’ best interests in the forefront of her mind at all times. Stacey has been involved with the Scarborough schools as a parent and citizen for many years. She also comes with a wealth of experience as a successful lawyer.

Feel free to take a look at her Facebook page for more information: Stacey for Scarborough BOE.

Please join me in voting for Stacey Neumann for Scarborough Board of Education.

Debra Bunce

To the editor,

With five of the seven seats on the board being filled with new members this November, Emily Read has the kind of experience Scarborough needs right now. She has served on the Public Library Board of Trustees, including two years as board president.

This service makes her unique among the candidates as someone who has served on a public board and who has experience putting together a municipal budget – one that has been presented to the Scarborough Town Council.

In addition to her work on the library board, Emily is responsible for building the network of Little Free Libraries all over town; making every trip to Memorial Park, soccer practice and sometimes even just the closest side street an opportunity to find and enjoy a new book. She is the rare person who will build something that brings joy and opportunity to people’s lives without expecting thanks or seeking recognition.

Currently, Emily works for the Children’s Dyslexia Center, managing communications and fundraising. In her work for both the library and the Dyslexia Center, Emily has proven that she has a knack for establishing connections and finding creative sources of funding. That, along with her experience in communications, are skills that will serve our school system extremely well.

Emily is a deep and independent thinker who is committed to listening to all stakeholders and gathering all the information needed to make thoughtful decisions. She has strength of character, will form opinions without feeling like she has an obligation to any constituency other than our children and will advocate for what’s best for our children – even when doing so is not easy.

At this tenuous time, as we work to build a new board of education with fresh perspectives, Emily Read is the sort of candidate we can’t afford to pass up – a thoughtful leader with the governance and financial experience that our school board needs right now.

Please join us in supporting Emily Read for the board of education this November.

Bryan and Jen Shumway

To the editor,

Accountability is about taking responsibility for one’s actions or inactions. Paul Johnson, Alicia Giftos, Amy Glidden and April Sither understand accountability.

When the board of education failed to address the needs of the Scarborough’s citizens with start times and proficiency based education, and when the teachers voted no confidence in the schools leadership, these four individuals dedicated their personal time and resources leading and organizing the recall efforts to hold our elected officials accountable for their inactions.

Holding others accountable is very hard to do and requires strength, courage and perseverance especially when the establishment did everything it could to derail and undermine their efforts.

With the recall behind us and a town healing, the easy thing would have been for them to go back to their lives. However, they are doing just the opposite by running for town council and board of education seats. They are demonstrating accountability to the thousands of citizens they inspired by continuing to offer their personal contributions to drive this town to greatness and renewal. If elected, I believe they will continue to hold themselves and their partners on the council and the board of education to a higher standard to deliver what’s best for the our community, teachers and students. Please join me in voting for Paul, April, Alicia and Amy this November.

Jon Anderson

To the editor,

I have known April Sither for a few years, but have had the pleasure of learning so much more about who she is through the school challenges of the past year.

April is deeply passionate about our schools, our students and our teachers. She is honest, hard working and open minded.

There will be five new board members come November and it’s important to have people in place that have already put the time in and will not have a huge learning curve to overcome. April has spent countless hours learning school board functions and policies, and has been working hard on solutions to improve those areas that need it.

She is ready to hit the ground running as an active, effective member of the board. All of this, combined with April’s willingness to listen to differing perspectives, gives me confidence that she is the very best person to serve on the Scarborough Board of Education.

Kristen Turner

To the editor,

By now residents of Scarborough have received their tax bill and I hope you noticed that there is good news. The tax assessor set the 2018-2019 tax rate at exactly the same as was set last year. How we got there is a story worth telling.

The last full town-wide property reassessment was in 2006. In 2013 assessed values were falling below state standards and a revaluation was put to referendum. It failed. In the following years the town manager monitored property values and about 15 months ago identified a worsening condition.

Not only had commercial and industrial properties gotten further out of whack with current values but had done so disproportionately to residential values. It was no longer a matter of some properties potentially being inaccurately taxed. It meant residential properties were bearing more than their fair share of our tax burden.

At the time we were without a tax assessor and the town manager rightly declined to move the issue forward without an assessor. An all out effort to hire an assessor was accomplished by December. The town manager immediately solicited bids from outside companies to undertake a revaluation of all commercial and industrial property.

Through this open competitive process a professional appraisal company was hired in February who committed to completing the revaluation by this August, a sizable undertaking. Simultaneously, the town installed a sophisticated new software program necessary to update the thousands of properties being reassessed. Three weeks ago, three days of hearings were provided to all revalued property owners to allow them to point out any errors that might have been made.

Fairness and good judgment was applied and a number of adjustments were made. Two weeks ago the town assessor set the tax rate for Scarborough’s 2018- 2019 budget at exactly where it was last year.

I have been asked if our tax rate and budget should have been lower still given the benefits of the revaluation and the council’s commitment to keeping tax increases below 3 percent.

You will appreciate that we took several steps in this year’s budget that were not required but which I supported out of respect for our 3 percent goal.

There is a place in the budget where reserve funds may be set aside to address risks that might arise.

We have two different tax matters involving such risks for which $600,000 has been set aside.

If we prevail those funds will be available for regular budgeting in a year or two. We also committed to paying for a town-wide residential revaluation this year.

The option existed to bond such an expense since it is the town’s residents living here for future years who benefit from the expenditure. However, an equally good argument can be made that it is sound, conservative financial management to avoid debt.

I am proud of my fellow councilors that they chose the more fiscally conservative option of including those expenses.

So in the end this is a story about prudent fiscal management, good timing and an alert, savvy town manager. Thanks be to all.

Bill Donovan, chairman
Scarborough Town Council

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