Recent developments in two local communities have us shaking our heads and asking ourselves what is going on with some of our municipal and school officials.

Between city councilors in South Portland and the superintendent at Bonny Eagle, we’re left with our jaws dropping and our eyes popping in amazement at the sheer boldness of these leaders.

In South Portland, the council is contemplating a ban on pesticides. A final vote has been delayed to June 20, although an initial reading was passed earlier this month. This group of seven idealogues, pushed by environmental constituencies within the city, seems determined to make South Portland – which at last look was filled to the brim with oil tanks and retail outlets that drive the southern Maine economy  – become the greenest city in North America, despite what it might do to local business and residents’ personal freedom.

The Founding Fathers probably never envisioned a day when the country would have municipal leaders bold enough to say what people can and cannot put on their lawn or garden. The message the council is sending is this: The pursuit of happiness, at least in South Portland, should not be found in a green lawn and pest-free garden, so city residents better get used to browning and bug-ravaged plantings.

Yes, there are organic alternatives to pesticides, these leaders and their defenders say. But what if we don’t want to? What if we want to buy something that really works? Does our freedom end when it comes to our choice of bug repellent?

We fully appreciate that South Portland leaders are concerned about the environment and that many pesticides have toxic effects that we would not want to cause. The council thinks it needs to “lead” on the issue, but leadership isn’t always just slapping a ban on something. Instead of a ban, the government should work to inform residents about the harmful environmental impact of their lawncare choices. The proposed pesticide ban in South Portland is government overreach, plain and simple.

Similar bad behavior by self-serving officials is also happening at School Administrative District 6. Last week, the school board held a closed-door meeting with a lawyer to discuss the issues surrounding gross sexual assault charges against Superintendent Frank Sherburne’s son. The son was an employee at Sacopee Valley High School and was later hired by SAD 6 to work at Buxton Center Elementary School. He was arrested around the time he was hired as an educational technicial in SAD 6.

While we realize the superintendent had no control over his son’s behavior, the superintendent should be held accountable for suggesting the hiring of his son into the SAD 6 system to board members. That’s against the district’s own nepotism policy, and if he did so knowing his son’s illegal behavior, then the parents who are calling for his resignation have good reason to be concerned. We’re not yet sure what he knew and when he knew it, but Sherburne should know better than to wink-wink and nudge-nudge school board members into hiring his son.

The timeline of what happened and when it happened is still fuzzy, since SAD 6 officials have remained essentially mum so far. But we trust the school board will bring forth full details of the hiring in as quickly as possible, since, as board member Ansel Stevens of Buxton said after last week’s special meeting, the situation calls for a “prompt resolution for the good of the school system.” We also expect the board to issue some sort of disiplinary action against the superintendent if he did in fact break the district’s nepotism policy. That’s a serious concern, especially given the criminal circumstances.

Leaders are entrusted to do what’s in the public’s best interests. Balancing the community’s good versus the personal good is always a challenge, but in these two cases – regulatory overreach and nepotism – it’s clear the public’s good is not being met.

-John Balentine, managing editor