Editorial, May 17, 2018

May 17, 2018

Reconsider flat-rate ferry fees

Maine Department of Transportation, which oversees the ferry service that operates in Penboscot Bay, should reconsider its plan to implement a flat-rate increase to ferry fees.

We understand that flat-rate structure is about as simple as it can get when it comes to implementation. One fee for everyone. Done.

However, as many residents of Islesboro have pointed out, the blanket approach to ferry fees simply doesn't make sense. Distances between the islands and mainland vary greatly, as do the costs to operate the individual ferries.

Let's use the Interstate for comparison. Drivers pay different amounts based on where they want to go and how far they travel the road. What if Maine DOT — out of the blue — decided all tolls would be $30, regardless of the distance? Many drivers, we think, would simply stop driving the Interstate and seek alternate routes that may be less efficient or less convenient.

The Interstate for island residents is the ferry service. While there are other possible methods for travel and transportation of goods, the ferry service is the most efficient and convenient for most. Islanders figure in the costs of commuting, just as regular Interstate users budget for tolls as part of their daily commute.

So, what's the harm in considering the suggestion proposed by island students? The proposal would have increased existing fees by about 17 percent, which would cover the projected budget shortfall. In addition, a percentage increase would be much easier for islanders to absorb than the flat rate, which more than doubles the cost of a trip from Islesboro to Lincolnville for a vehicle and driver.

Implementing a percentage increase would not make more work for ferry service staffers, who already collect different amounts. And, perhaps, Maine DOT did consider the percentage increase and rejected it — but if that's the case, a reason should be given.

 

Give ranked-choice voting a chance

Ranked-choice voting, which takes effect for the first time in Maine during the June 12 primary election and also is on the ballot for renewal, might be confusing the first time around, but we think it will be worth it in the long term.

With ranked-choice, voters pick candidates in order of preference, including second- and third- and even fourth-choice candidates. If no one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the votes after the first count, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate would have their ballots added to the totals of their second-choice candidates. The process continues until one candidate has a clear majority and is declared the winner, according to the Portland Press Herald.

This means that when you have three candidates running for governor, which is often the case, you don't have to vote for the big party candidate rather than the third-party candidate just to avoid helping elect your least favorite.

It also means that whoever wins would have at least some support from the majority of voters, creating a more unified, less gridlocked government.

This does not favor liberals over conservatives. It is simply a more fair way to elect leaders.

We would favor approval of ranked-choice voting for all elected officials and an amendment to the Maine constitution to make that possible.

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