WESTBROOK — Mike Foley says his 16 years of experience in city politics, starting as a high school student, makes him a champion for Westbrook.

Foley, an at-large city councilor and the city Democratic Committee’s nominee for mayor, is running against incumbent Mayor Mike Sanphy, Michael Shaughnessy and Phil Spiller Jr. in the Nov. election.

If elected, one of the key issues he will take on is fiscal responsibility.

“One thing that is factual is that the tax rate has grown exponentially in the last three years over previous administrations,” he said. “I think we need responsible tax increases in our city, which we’ve struggled with the last three years.”

As a city councilor, he has heard from many residents about their hardships, particularly seniors who have a hard time covering their taxes, he said. While a senior tax relief program is new in Westbrook, Foley wants to expand it to a wider age range to help more residents.

Foley believes the city should change its spending habits as well by finding alternatives to borrowing.

“I’ve suggested finding ways to save for expenses or pay cash for expenses instead of borrowing,” he said. “The city pays $3 million in interest expenses annually, which is a significant expense just for interest, so changing that we can change our trajectory. We buy two cruisers a year and we finance them for three years, why can’t we finance that to avoid the interest? We borrow our road repair money. Some of these things require easing into, which will hopefully help us save money in the long term.”

Changing the budgeting process by letting city departments know what’s practical at the outset could also help, he said.

“I want to develop and provide guides to departments that say where they come in (financially) and what they can afford,” Foley said. “I can work with City Council to come up with that guide for the acceptable tax increase instead of having someone come in with an increase and (we) tear apart the budget during the Finance Committee meeting. People feel cut and hurt in that process, and it’s easier to know what you are coming into.”

Foley also said greater financial responsibility could help the city increase police patrols, which he sees as a safety issue for officers and the public. Specifically, he said, the police department has grown with many specialty positions.

“Our community has grown and the demand is increasing,” he said. “We have added some officers in last year’s budget, but we need to continue that trend.” 

On Foley’s radar is also the exploration of improved public transportation to address road congestion, as opposed to diving into work on rail service from Portland to Westbrook, as proposed by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which oversees the Boston-to-Brunswick Amtrak line.

“We could do more improvements in transit using the bus for a tenth of the investment (of the railway),” Foley said. “We could increase the frequency and create routes and make public transit-only lanes or transit signal priority.”

He also supports new residential developments to address the city’s housing crunch.

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