My husband and I attended Monday night’s town council meeting in Brunswick. It was well attended, despite not being well publicized. We arrived at 6:30 p.m. to a packed room and saw many familiar faces that represent many facets of our community. This is one of the things we love about Brunswick.

Near the beginning of the meeting, there was acknowledgment of the Town Green and its 200th anniversary and a smattering of other issues including one issue regarding whether to revoke the license of a vendor of one of the food trucks. This seemed to be a poor use of the council’s time and should have been a private matter between the town and the vendor and instead it felt embarrassing for everyone. It felt like the vendor was being called down to the principal’s office for bad behavior.

In a galling show of disrespect to its audience, the town council decided to parade out the town assessor, Taylor Burns. He proceeded to soft-spokenly present a series of PowerPoint slides that were not only hard to see, but also difficult to interpret and he then entertained questions only from the baffled and confused appearing town council members who also did not seem to grasp the data or the process. WOW! The town manager, John Eldridge then spent about 30 minutes engaging in double speak and “word salad” and watched as the audience’s eyes glazed over. Read the room!
Finally, at 9 p.m., council Chairperson James Mason decided to give everyone a break and did not start taking commentary from the audience until 9:15 p.m. Does the town council think it is OK to make people wait three hours to be allowed their three minutes of airtime to speak? Our next-door lobsterman, who is usually in bed by 8 p.m. and up at 4 a.m., stayed up late so that he could articulate his concerns.
This was really so disrespectful and embarrassing to have to sit through the tax assessor’s presentation and watch town council members struggle to make sense of the plan. This should have been done for them behind closed doors so that they could have at least appeared to have been knowledgable about the details. Instead it was just a bumbling display of incompetence.
The primary reason for most that were in attendance at last night’s meeting was to try to understand the town’s lack of transparency in undertaking a reassessment of Brunswick properties. They seemed to have done this in a rather veiled and inconspicuous manner so as not to draw attention to the fact that they were going to pull the rug out from many taxpayers’ feet.
As was pointed out in last night’s meeting by one of the speaker’s, a former town council member and chairperson, the differences from the way in which last assessment in 2017 and the manner could not have been a starker contrast. In 2017, Brunswick taxpayers were informed at nearly every step in the process. Transparency was present. This assessment came as a complete surprise to most of us.
Brunswick citizens were informed by a letter that came out last week. For the majority of Brunswick taxpayers, there will be a significant tax increase. In listening to last night’s speakers, there are real concerns about how people are going to scramble to find extra cash to pay those increases. There was no warning. For many people in this town living paycheck to paycheck, there is no such thing as a discretionary slush fund. How presumptuous for our town council to think that they can slap taxpayers with extra taxes to pay and give them two months to come up with the funds before the next tax bill is due in October. Check your privilege at the door, please.
We heard from social workers, doctors, retired citizens, small business owners and lobstermen last night. People are struggling out there and we are a community that needs to be responsive to that.
We urge the town to hit the pause button, go back to the table and engage the community in discussions about what a more realistic and gradual and equitable solution might look like.
Kristin Jhamb,

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