VillageSoup/TRJ invited the six candidates for Belfast City Council to submit letters to the editor, allowing them to introduce themselves to voters and to make their case for why voters should elect them on Nov. 2. We received responses from four of the six candidates. Ward 1 candidate Roger Pickering and Ward 5 candidate John Arrison did not submit letters.

Ward 1

Marina Delune

I’m Marina Delune, and I’m running for re-election to represent Ward 1 on the City Council. For those who don’t know me, I’d like to introduce myself.

I’ve lived in Belfast for 18 years. I was born and grew up in Maine, and graduated with the first class of women admitted to Bowdoin College. I was born with cerebral palsy, and my life’s work has been to help others who struggle.

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, West Africa. I’ve worked in public health, for the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission, with the Waldo County Child and Parent Council and the Coastal AIDS Network, and was the developer for the Waldo County Dental Clinic. I also worked with communities around Maine to develop dental services for low-income people.

On the Council, I’ve been a moderate voice. I might call me a flip-flopper, and I’m proud of that, because it shows that I’m willing to change my mind based upon what I hear from others and what I learn. I work to listen and understand the concerns of both sides on an issue and then find the best compromise whenever possible.

Along with Roger Lee, I pushed to use some of the city surplus to keep taxes from rising in this difficult year.

Everybody talks about jobs. I pushed for the hiring of an economic development director to attract businesses, take advantage of development grants and support the businesses we have. I supported relaxing restrictions for home-based businesses proposed in the Comprehensive Plan.

When a restaurant owner told of his difficulty getting permits to develop his business because of the number of parking spaces required, I worked to cut that number in half. I will work with the economic development director to pursue the development of a food-processing facility and jobs for both skilled and lower-skilled workers.

The socioeconomic diversity that has made Belfast so unique is at risk. Gentrification is creating a need for affordable housing so that young people and those on a limited income can still afford to live here. I will work to address that need.

I’ve been involved with several projects that I want to see come to fruition. I am excited about the possibility of continuing to serve on the steering committees for the Waterfront Master Plan and the Coastal Walkway. I will work to add dock space and preserve the working waterfront. I helped pass an ordinance that will soon allow Belfast residents to get easy financing that requires no down payment for energy-efficiency home improvements, and I want as many residents as possible to take advantage of this option to improve our housing stock and create jobs.

It has been a privilege to serve and represent the people of Belfast. I am asking for the opportunity to continue to do so. Please vote for me November 2.

Ward 2

Rita Horsey

The existing City Council seems to have forgotten that the money they spend is from the taxpayer/property owners who live in the city of Belfast. Property taxes are due at the end of this month. It is hard-earned money and sometimes property taxes are paid in lieu of other necessities.

It is important that the levy the city places on homes and businesses be as low as possible. Property tax rates have driven residents and businesses out of the city. People who have lived here their entire lives are having difficulty staying here — they simply can’t afford to pay the high property taxes.

I have checked out the property tax rates of other Maine towns. Property in Ellsworth is taxed at the rate of $13.35/$1000 property evaluation. The Camden tax rate is $13.21/$1000. Rockport is $11.38. Belfast is $18.10. Although there are other towns with a tax rate similar to Belfast’s, looking at these lower rates means to me it is possible to lower the Belfast tax rate.

In order to lower Belfast’s tax rate two things have to happen: 1. The City Council needs to reexamine the budget — just because an item is in the budget doesn’t mean the money has to be spent, 2. The City Council has to get out of the way so more businesses will be willing to come to Belfast.

Local government is the level of government closest to the people. It is the level of government to which citizens have the greatest access and over which they have the most control. It is as close as we come to self-government. However, with this right to self-govern comes the responsibility to be informed.

The City Council in Belfast is very powerful. In my opinion, it has done some things that are not wise. They have ignored the will of the people they were elected to represent with regard to commercial zoning; they have instituted contract zoning within the commercial zone, which discourages businesses from locating in Belfast; they decided that they would not include a statement that they would negotiate “in good faith” with businesses interested in coming here; they used a portion of the undesignated funds in order to say they were keeping the tax rate down — rather than actually reduce the tax rate; and they use undesignated funds for land purchases not in the best interest of the citizens.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that it is up to you, the citizens of Belfast, to determine if you want business as usual or if you would rather elect someone who will always be concerned about the fact that they are spending your money and will spend it wisely and for your benefit.

My promise to you, if I am elected, is I will be careful with your money and I will represent your wishes. I will be available to listen to everyone and I will vote according to your wishes — that is what a representative is supposed to do.

Roger Lee

Last week’s Republican Journal reported on interviews that Ethan Andrews held with me and my opponent, Rita Horsey. The interviews captured quite well the enormous difference between the two of us in how we would act as city councilors.

Rita is the co-founder of the local Tea Party organization, and has extremely conservative views on the role of city government. She seems to be against any and all spending by city government to improve the city. Her purpose in running seems to be solely to cut property taxes. I am all for cutting property taxes, and I have a proven track record of doing so (I had the leading role in reducing the mil rate from 19.3 to 18.1 in the past four years).

But there is much more to being a city councilor than cutting taxes. City government needs to make smart investments in the future of our city — investments that will improve prospects for new jobs, make housing and business investment more affordable, and improve the quality of life for all Belfast residents.

My opponent would vote against nearly all such investments. For example, she is on record as opposing five important investments that I had a leading role in achieving: (1) purchase of the rail corridor, to preserve it for future rail use and to provide a walking/biking trail alongside the rail; (2) hiring the city’s new economic development director to grow jobs and investment in the city, and to bring in grant funding; (3) building the waterfront walkway from the boathouse to the footbridge and up Footbridge Street to Route 1, to improve the appearance of our waterfront, and to spur investment in that area; (4) providing modest financial support to festivals and other key public events, such as the Celtic Celebration to help promote the city to those considering traveling and/or investing here; and (5) redesigning the city’s Web site to improve its functionality for the many people who depend on the site for information (e.g., city residents, tourists, potential new residents, potential investors in new businesses).

My opponent would also likely have opposed most of the other investments I have helped achieve in the past four years, such as: (1) providing financial support to the Hutchinson Center, which provides a high-quality higher education option right in Belfast; (2) providing annual financial support to the YMCA, which provides the bulk of recreation programming in the city, much of it for free (and makes the city enormously more attractive to businesses considering investing here); (3) hiring experts who will listen to the public and business owners and help the city draft a master plan for a more attractive and more functional waterfront; and (4) developing a new comprehensive plan with zoning changes that promise to reduce housing and business development costs.

I ask for your vote in this election. I will continue to work hard toward improving Belfast, toward achieving a city in which there are more jobs and more affordable housing for everyone.

Ward 5

Nancy Hamilton

I’m Nancy Hamilton, and I’m running for City Council from Ward 5. Like most of you, in the next two weeks I’ll fulfill two of my responsibilities as a resident of Belfast: paying property taxes and voting.

It was concerns about our taxes — specifically, surplus city funds — that first propelled me into city politics. In March it appeared that the Council was considering using the surplus to purchase and renovate the Mathews Brothers building into an event center, as well as help fund ongoing operations. I spoke in opposition to that plan, while making it clear I supported a privately-funded facility. My view was apparently shared by a number of people, many of whom contacted me. Several suggested I run for Council. It wasn’t something that I had considered before, so I decided to spend some time analyzing the situation.

I’ve learned in business that unless you listen to people who do not agree with you, you can end up with an incomplete picture of an issue. So, in the past few months I’ve visited with a number of political and cultural groups and individuals. In spite of wide differences in background and political views, people have been concerned about the same things that concern me: the economy, a lack of jobs, safeguarding the city’s surplus and the possibility of future local tax increases.

The decisions facing the city are complex. When dealing with complex issues, it helps to approach them with a clear set of guiding principles. Mine are simple: common sense and the common good. I don’t have an agenda or ties to any special-interest groups. Instead, when faced with an issue, my approach will be to ask myself these questions: What is the appropriate role of the city in this case? Is there a clear need, or is a particular proposal a “want?” Can the same result be achieved by a non-government organization or funded through private donations? Will whatever is proposed benefit the whole of Belfast, or only a limited few? Will potential future benefits outweigh the costs? Will costs create a hardship for taxpayers on limited incomes?

This approach seems to appeal to a wide variety of people. One longtime resident told me I have the most unusual coalition of supporters he has seen in Belfast politics: folks from both sides of the river, lifelong residents and newcomers, Republicans and Democrats, young entrepreneurs and retirees on fixed incomes. I’m proud of the mix, because it is a reflection of Belfast itself, and because if elected, I intend to represent all of the people.

On Nov. 2, I urge you to help create Belfast’s future by voting. If my common-sense approach to city government appeals to you, please vote for me for City Council. If not, vote for my opponent. But vote — and after that, keep making your views known. Contact your councilors, speak up at Council meetings and public hearings, and write letters to the editor. Each of us can make a difference.