Nancy Hamilton (R-Belfast)
What portion of the city budget do you think could be cut or reduced?
I would like to see the city’s budget be a balanced one — but since last year our revenues were so much less than anticipated, that will be a difficult task. I’ve suggested to City Manager Joe Slocum that each department manager look back at this past year’s budget and note where they were over — and under — budget. Learning from that, we should be able to make a more accurate estimate of spending needs.
What part of the budget needs to be protected from cuts?
Certainly, we need to ensure that public safety and infrastructure needs are met — police and fire protection, roads and sewers, and snow clearing are vital. (However, that’s not to say that some ways of reducing can’t be found even in those areas.) An organization’s budget is the monetary expression of its goals — so the Council needs to hear from the public about their goals for the city.
Do you see any opportunities for the city to use energy more efficiently or utilize renewable energy?
We are always considering such opportunities, such as the Goose River hydro project. I think Joe Slocum and Thomas Kittridge are doing a great job of informing us when these opportunities present themselves.
What capital projects do you think the city should be taking on, and are there any projects the city is discussing that you think shouldn’t move forward?
I think the Passy Rail-Trail project should be put on hold until private funding means can be found, as Councilor [Marina] Delune has suggested. I’ve been advocating for upgrading Front Street for almost as long as Front Street Shipyard has been around. With that change to the waterfront, Front Street has changed from a back street to a major thoroughfare, both for industry (McCrum’s and FSS) and for tourism.
Should the city use surplus to hold the mill rate flat, or should it be replenished?
That’s a decision that needs to be made each year, depending on the amount of undesignated funds. Those funds are not really “surplus,” since they are used to cover city expenses at the end of the year, before the income from property taxes comes in. Calling them “surplus” implies that they can be disposed of — which is not the case! We need a certain amount of money in the bank — just as a household needs a certain amount of money in the bank — to cover unforeseen expenses.
Do you think you are able to work well with other councilors, or do you feel the public discourse is too contentious?
I feel that I’ve been able to work well with all the councilors, even while having great political and philosophical differences. As I’ve mentioned in “Communications,” there are constituents who have contacted me with concerns about the tone of discourse, and I’ve urged everyone — councilors and members of the public who speak to Council — to disagree without being disagreeable. It’s much more powerful to simply state a position with passion, and with facts to back it up, rather than attack someone who holds a different position.
Why are you seeking re-election?
I originally ran for Council because I thought I could offer common-sense, fiscally conservative ideas. I don’t feel that the job is done, although I’ve managed to at least influence the discussion on many issues.
What issues facing the city are you most concerned about, and what would you do to address them?
We need more good-paying jobs for Belfast residents. I support efforts to increase small businesses — and larger businesses. I support Mike Hurley’s ideas of a privately developed small-business “incubator” facility in the airport business park with loading docks. That would encourage small manufacturers and other entrepreneurs who need to ship items in and out. I also support his idea of developing city property on Front Street to provide mixed-use development.
What could you do to get people more involved in local government?
Well, certainly raising taxes had that effect. I hope that was a wake-up call to folks to actually follow what happens at Council meetings, which are available on cable TV as well as on the Internet, and are well reported by your newspaper. Councilors’ e-mail addresses are on the city website, and all of us take constituent comments seriously. So, I’d invite people to watch, read and contact councilors when they have an issue they feel strongly about.
How important is it to have a Master Plan in place, and what would you to do move that process forward?
There’s an old saying, “Failing to plan is the same as planning to fail.” However, the plan has to be implemented to be of any use. In the past, some plans just gathered dust. I trust that won’t happen with the current Downtown and Waterfront Master Plan, because the Council has been working with the city manager to ensure that the plan is completed in a timely manner and that steps are taken to ensure that items in the plan are scheduled for implementation. I think the process is working well, and we are all committed to making sure it continues to work.
How important is tourism to the local economy, and what would you do to encourage more people to visit the city?
Tourism is very important to the local economy, and the Council has been very supportive of not only Our Town Belfast and the Chamber of Commerce, but also the various groups that sponsor events that draw people to town.
How big do you think the drug problem in the city of Belfast is, and what could you do as a Councilor to address illegal drug use?
It’s a large problem that Belfast shares with the rest of the nation. The roots of drug abuse lie deep in our culture and our families — the city can only attempt to protect citizens from the crime that it spawns.
Do you support the use of surveillance cameras in the city? Why or why not?
I’m not happy with the idea that we would have “Big Brother” watching citizens as they go about their business. However, we also need to protect citizens from those who would prey on them. It’s a complex issue, and one that the council needs to study further.