Saturday, March 8, 2014
AUGUSTA - All things municipal -- from consolidation to transportation -- were discussed Wednesday at a gubernatorial forum sponsored by the Maine Municipal Association.
Four of the five candidates on the Nov. 2 ballot shared their views on the future of relations between the state and its cities and towns.
Republican Paul LePage, the mayor of Waterville, did not attend the forum. A spokesman said LePage had events in Brunswick and Winthrop that prevented him from participating.
Moderator Tory Ryden, formerly of WMTW-TV, told the candidates at the start that the discussion was to be a forum, not a debate. The candidates -- Democrat Libby Mitchell and independents Eliot Cutler, Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott -- heeded that and did not engage each other directly on issues.
The forum at the Augusta Civic Center was part of the Maine Municipal Association's annual meeting. Hundreds of officials attended.
Mitchell, the state Senate president, emphasized the nine years she spent as a Vassalboro selectwoman. On the issue of roads, she said the state needs another "robust" bond package to pay for needed repairs.
"I do not believe Maine people are ready to embrace an increase in a gas tax," she said.
Cutler said Mainers already pay a "hidden tax" because deteriorating roads force many people to pay hundreds of dollars for car repairs. He said tourism is also hampered by bad roads.
"Right now, at the pace we're proceeding, we will rebuild Maine roads once every 200 years," he said.
He said Mainers must consider borrowing, a higher gas tax, a vehicle per-mile fee or tolls to generate money to keep up with road maintenance.
Scott said municipal officials are doing a good job finding ways to consolidate services to save money.
"Consolidation is going to happen when communities want to do it, not when they are forced into it," he said.
Moody said he wants to change the mindset from "what's in it for me" to "what's in it for Maine."
He said municipal and state officials must coordinate to make it easier for new businesses to open across the state. He described the state as a large "corporation," and municipalities as small businesses.
"The local communities are the small businesses," he said. "They are nimble, quick and agile."
MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org