Candidates for Scarborough Town Council presented during a candidates’ forum Monday night presented by the Scarborough Community Chamber of Commerce. The event is an election-season tradition in Scarborough, and this year the event was held virtually.

SCARBOROUGH — Candidates running for school board and town council presented their views on a variety of local issues Sept. 28 during the Candidates’ Forum, presented by the Scarborough Community Chamber of Commerce.

The event is an annual tradition in Scarborough, but this year candidates and organizers appeared via Zoom teleconferencing software. School Board Chairwoman Leanne Kazilionis, who is running for re-election, and two challengers, John David Dittmer and Mary Shannon Lindstrom, are all running for a total of two seats. Board member Hillory Durgin is not seeking re-election, and declined comment as to why when asked by The Forecaster.

Town Council incumbents Jean-Marie Caterina and John L. Cloutier are facing challengers Jonathan Anderson, Nicholas McGee and Frayla Tarpinian for a total of three seats. Councilor Peter Hayes is declining to seek re-election, saying he feels he’s served in his position long enough and wants another voice to be heard on the council.

Kevin Freeman, a chamber volunteer who served as moderator, read questions from the audience supplied via email. He asked if the candidates support an arbitrary default cap on budget increases, implemented before the annual budget process begins, in order to control spending increases. All three candidates said they did not, and Dittmer, in his response, said the board needs to take a more thoughtful and less automatic approach to the budget process.

“We’ve been treating our schools like a burden, but they’re not a burden,” he said. “They’re our greatest asset.”

Kazilionis, responding to another budget question about how to balance the needs of the district with proposals from the unions, noted that in the most recent round of collective bargaining negotiations, the board approved raises and that “we did take some heat as a board” for that decision. Kazilionis, however, defended the raises.

“That’s really part of how you start balancing that out, by making sure that we’re ensuring continuity within our educational system while we’re also looking at how it best benefits the town,” she said. “It is a symbiotic relationship. We are strong as a town because we have a strong school system.”

Freeman also asked how the candidates felt about a consolidated elementary school, an issue that the district had been discussing prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Leighton said she strongly supported the idea, noting that portable classrooms are “Band-aids” that don’t address the problem of older, inadequate buildings.

“When you have three primary schools as old as ours are, you’re already behind the ball,” she said.

During the town council candidates’ segment, Caterina said the biggest challenge going forward is dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and she wants to work with the council to keep fighting for more funding from the state and federal level.

“People forget that towns are at the bottom of the funnel when it comes to money,” she said.

When asked how he felt the council could help small businesses recover from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, Cloutier, who owns a motel, said he understood the plight of small business owners. He noted many are trying to evolve and do business differently, such as restaurants that want to have outdoor seating even though it may clash with local ordinances. Cloutier said the council needs to allow regulations to adapt to accommodate innovative practices by local business.

“Sometimes we can do things to remove those barriers,” he said.

When asked how to better manage growth, particularly in the school system, McGee, who sits on the Scarborough Planning Board, cited new high-density development proposals, and said he wants to see such development slowed down.

“I’m not in favor of high-density city cross-streets modeled in a grid pattern,” he said.

Tarpinian, responding to a question about how the council can help mitigate climate change, said she thinks the council should look at it in terms of what can be done to slow it down, such as offering cooling stations in the summer to curb the use of air conditioners, and forming an action plan that can be implemented immediately.

“There is absolute scientific consensus that it is happening,” she said. “Our planet is warming, and we need to address it.”

Anderson agreed that something must be done, but called for more collaboration with other communities.

“Climate change is a global issue, and I think while it’s important that we find the little things we can do within our own community, I think we’ll be much more effective at addressing it if we can partner with those around us,” he said.

Sean Murphy 780-9094

Email: [email protected]

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