2017-10-27 / Front Page

Four seek two empty seats on Cape council

With the two incumbents Patty Grennon and Kathy Ray not seeking election, Cape Elizabeth voters have a chance to elect two new faces to the town council. Peter McCarthy, Valerie Randall, Chris Straw and James Tasse are running for two three-year terms on the council. Voters will also be heading to the polls Nov. 7 to elect two new school board members. Mohammed Shir and Hope Straw are seeking to replace Joanna Morrissey and Barbara Powers, both of whom are not running for another term.

Name: Peter R. McCarthy

Age 76

Position Seeking: Town Councilor

Address: 2 Balsam Rd.

Phone number: 767-1052

Occupation: I retired in 1996 from the position of Sales Development and Operations Vice president in the AT&T Microelectronics Division following a 32 year career in the manufacturing and Bell Labs part of AT&T.

Family: In 1965 I married Ellen Casey from the Mountain View neighborhood of Cape Elizabeth. We have two daughters and two granddaughters.

Education completed: Ellen and I met on campus at the University of Pennsylvania from which we both graduated. My degree is in electrical engineering.

Organizations and Activities: Since coming to Maine in 1996 I have been active with the Friends of the Portland Symphony and the steering committee of the Committee of One Hundred at the Portland Museum of Art. I have been active with the Portland chapter of SCORE, providing counseling to entrepreneurs and support services to the local chapter.

Top three issues:

1) Over the years fitness activities of Cape residents have grown steadily. Today there are many walkers, joggers and bicyclers using the edges and sides of town streets to get in a good workout. The equally steady increase in car traffic has surged recently as internet based travel sites and GPS capabilities are guiding large number of vehicles into our neighborhoods. We need our public works department to refresh the Pedals and Pedestrians study from years ago and bring recommendations for road widening and more pathways along our roads to the Council to address this growing risk to our citizens..

2) Fort Williams has seen a startling increase in tourist traffic recently. Cruise ship passenger totals exceeded 100,000 for the first time last year, will top 125,000 this year and are projected to reach 160,000 next year. We’ve seen cars parking on grassy areas around the park as all lots were full. Our public works personnel struggle to satisfy these growing demands. Representatives of the Fort committee, the Fort foundation, the gift shop, and public works should collaborate on a position description for a fort director. The town council can consider this plan and act.

3) This will be an especially challenging year for the town council working on the school budget. Five of the 10 top administrators in the school administration are brand new in their positions working under the direction of an acting superintendent. These are talented people with rich backgrounds in education, but they have never worked together before. We have an excellent school system today. In this transition year the town council needs to be more involved than usual in the school budgeting process. My operations experience involving a strict budgetary discipline should be of value here.

Why are you seeking elected office?

In July I read that there might not be enough candidates to fill the vacancies on the school board and the town council. After attending a few council meetings and workshops I concluded that my business experience could a valuable asset to the Town Council. After 50 years of ties to Cape Elizabeth, I decided it was time to step up and serve.

There has been talk over the years, including in the last few weeks, about how to manage Fort Williams Park better. One solution could be to hire a dedicated park manager. What do you see as the management/operational challenges at the park and how would you recommend addressing them?

When the Fort Williams Committee came to their meeting with the town council on Sept. 25, they reported a large surge of tourist traffic hitting many tourist attractions throughout the Northeast in the last few years. Acadia was highlighted because they began closing certain locations on Sundays and limiting access to some locations throughout the week. Traffic and parking volumes rose sharply. Among other comments it was mentioned that time commitments for the public works director for photo shoots was a growing task. Last year’s town financial report included revenues from the gift shop and museum exceeding $500,000 before any expenses. (That is not to be confused with profit) This is a real challenge for our town.

The council is being asked to consider hiring a fort manager to get our arms around this growing challenge and that is a move I agree with. The process of hiring such a person should be based on a position description developed through the collaboration of the Fort Williams Committee, the Fort Williams Foundation, the museum and gift shop, and the Public Works department. An operational plan describing how these organizations go about their activities will come from this collaborative effort. The Town Council will need to closely monitor this organizational work.

The town is in the midst of a Comprehensive Plan update; what is your vision for the future of Cape Elizabeth and how will your role on the council advance this vision of the future?

I think the comprehensive plan committee needs help to gain much more input into this important process for the community. I would like to see the high school government affairs class spearhead an effort to get every student in the high school and every parent of students to participate in this year’s update. The town council needs to implement plans from this update effort with a maximum of citizen involvement. This approach has produced the current Fort Williams and has helped make the Beach to Beacon such a great event for the whole community.

Name: Valerie Randall

Age: 33

Position seeking: Town Councilor

Address: 23 Orchard Rd.

Phone: 272-0886

Occupation: Trial attorney (primarily criminal defense, also appellate and some family matters)

Family: single

Education completed: JD and Master’s of public policy and management (policy analysis track)

Organizations and activities: Pro bono panel at Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project

Top three issues:

1. Maintaining and expanding public access to green space. I would like to see protection of existing trails with development of new trails and parks, as appropriate, throughout the town. It’s also important to me to see the issues at Fort Williams addressed while not limiting access to the park for area residents.

2. Planning for moderate development of business and housing. There has been significant concern about high taxes and funding a growing school budget. Development of business and housing can offset the burden that current residents bear, but development should be carefully planned such that the character of the town can be preserved as much as possible.

3. Public transportation and improvements to sidewalks and bike lanes. Both public transportation and a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly town will attract new residents to Cape and make our town more environmentally sustainable.

1) Why are you seeking elected office?

I grew up in Portland and I’ve seen the area go through major changes. Many of these changes are good - we’ve seen economic growth and a booming housing market. However, especially during times like these, it’s important to pay close attention to the ways in which we are changing. I am a relatively new resident of Cape Elizabeth, but I have been following the issues here for some time, and they are not dissimilar from the issues other municipalities in the area have been facing in this time of change. I am not running for office because of one particular issue; I am becoming involved because I think it’s important to participate in shaping the future of my community.

2) There has been talk over the years, including

in the last few weeks, about how to manage Fort Williams Park better. One solution could be to hire a dedicated park manager. What do you see as the management/operational challenges at the park and how would you recommend addressing them?

There has been an undeniable increase in traffic to the park throughout the past decade, especially, it seems, in the number of tour buses traveling to the area. The increase in the number of visitors brings with it heavier traffic and crowding at the park. I am reluctant to propose any changes at this point, but if elected, I would like to hear more from stakeholders and the foundation. I do not support an entry fee for Maine residents, but I wonder whether we might want to consider how to maximize revenues from other sources, particularly with an eye toward off-setting costs incurred by the Town.

3) The town is in the midst of a comprehensive plan update process. What is your vision for the future of Cape Elizabeth and, if elected, how would your role as councilor, help meet that vision?

My vision for the future of this town is a more walkable, more accessible, and more diverse Cape Elizabeth. As councilor, I would support efforts to revitalize the town center by improving and adding sidewalks and bike lanes at the center of town and in surrounding areas. I would like to see more small businesses grow there, and I imagine that these businesses could be supported by other changes, such as adding a traffic light at the intersection of Shore and Scott Dyer roads with Route 77, and adding on-street parking with better signage to attract beachgoers who may not be familiar with the area. I also would like to look into the feasibility of a bus line into South Portland and Portland, to improve accessibility to and from the town. Further, I would like to hear more about the possibility of development of affordable housing. Affordable housing would attract more young people and a more diverse population, which would bring both economic and social benefits to the town.

Name: Chris Straw

Age: 41

Position seeking: Town Councilor

Address: 597 Shore Road

Phone: 409-2999

Occupation: Small business owner

Family: wife Hope, children Tess (sixth grade), Story (fifth grade), Gideon (second grade)

Education completed: B.S. UC Davis Computer Science Engineering; J.D. NYU School of Law

Organizations and activities: Fort Williams Park Commission, Fort Williams Park Foundation, Cape Elizabeth Board of Zoning Appeals, Lake Environmental Association, Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, Cape Robotics volunteer, Pond Cove in-class volunteer

Top three issues:

1. The most important issue for the next three years is without a doubt the updates to the comprehensive plan. We need to elect town councilors that will ensure the plan preserves the open spaces and semi-rural character that make Cape such an appealing place to live. As an active member of the community and a volunteer on various Town-related boards, I possess the drive, the determination, and the experience necessary to ensure the best possible Plan is sent to the voters for approval.

2. The second most important issue facing the Town is balancing our school budgetary needs against our capacity to meet those needs using local property taxes. As the only candidate with three kids in the school system, it is very important to me that the schools are adequately funded. That said, we can actually decrease our property taxes while preserving or even increasing our current funding levels by deftly modifying certain malstructured areas of our school budget to bring them into compliance with the State’s funding formula. I am the candidate who knows exactly how to make this happen.

3. The third most important issue facing Cape is our sense of public integrity. Although this will always be an issue with any local small-town government, the recent paper street fiasco has (for right or wrong) served to once again highlight this issue. Being a small town, I know, am friendly with, and sympathize with residents on both sides of this issue and others. That said, I have always endeavored to do what is right for the Town as a whole and voters can rest assured that I will never allow personal relationships to dictate my decision-making.

1) Why are you seeking elected office?

I am running for office because I couldn’t convince any of a dozen or so other competent people in town to run. You know who you are. On a more serious note, the next three years will be critical in ensuring the Comprehensive Plan is properly structured and vetted before it is sent to the voters for approval. For those who don’t know, every decade the citizens of Cape vote on a comprehensive plan that is supposed to guide and control the town council’s decision-making. Because of the importance of this document, it is absolutely essential that we the residents elect town councilors that are both capable and willing to ensure all aspects of this plan are carefully vetted and analyzed prior to our town-wide up/down vote. Moreover, our school budget is in need of a one-time restructuring in order to bring it into greater compliance with the state’s funding formula. Prior town councilors and school board members have avoided an in-depth analysis of the budget due to the purported complexities of this formula. I, on the other hand, am already deeply familiar with it due to past issues advocating for particular funding changes and know exactly what we need to do in order to maximize the revenue we receive from the State.

2) There has been talk over the years, including in the last few weeks, about how to manage Fort Williams Park better. One solution could be to hire a dedicated park manager. What do you see as the management/operational challenges at the park and how would you recommend addressing them?

As a current member of the Fort Williams Park Commission, I am intimately familiar with the issues facing the park and have been at the forefront of the attempts to address these issues. First and foremost, we need to get a handle on who is using the park. Shockingly, we currently lack concrete statistics on: how many people use the park each year; where they are from; how long they stay and what areas they visit. The park commission, which is solely an advisory board, has long sought assistance from the town council on this issue and, if elected, I will make collection of this data a priority. Without this data, our assumptions about what is happening at the park are simply based on anecdotal evidence. That being said, I strongly believe that we need a dedicated parks and recreation manager that can juggle all of the competing demands on all of our parks and rec fields. Right now, we have an excellent Public Works director that spends an inordinate amount of his time on park issues. I would much rather see him applying his expertise to our roads, sidewalks, sewer, and other facilities.

3) The town is in the midst of a comprehensive plan update process. What is your vision for the future of Cape Elizabeth and, if elected, how would your role as councilor, help meet that vision?

As I previously said, although not necessarily the most high profile, this is nevertheless the most important issue in Cape Elizabeth. My vision of Cape Elizabeth entails protecting our open spaces, our waterfront assets, and our semi-rural character. A key characteristic of Cape is its clustered neighborhoods. Allowing infilling of the vacant spaces between these neighborhoods creates suburban sprawl and damages our community. Although I understand the desire to diversify our tax base by attracting more businesses into town, the simple truth is that the customer base for any business in the town center will never be more than a couple of thousand people because we are a peninsula with limited access into and out of town. This is why you currently see a number of vacant commercial buildings in the town center. As an attorney and former member of the zoning board, I understand zoning ordinances. My knowledge and experience of the zoning ordinance allow me to critically analyze proposed changes to the comprehensive plan in order to ensure they do not undermine the overall character of our town.

Name: James Tasse Age: 54 Position seeking: Town Councilor Address: 30 Cliff Avenue

Phone: 318-0386

Occupation: Bicycle and pedestrian advocate and consultant

Family: Wife,Sarah

Education completed: PhD from CU Boulder, 1999

Organizations and activities: Assistant Director, Bicycle Coalition of Maine; Chair, Cape Elizabeth Conservation Committee; Lift 360 Graduate; past president, Greater Portland Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association

Top three issues:

1. Managing growth and development pressures to ensure that Cape Elizabeth’s unique character is preserved over time. Cape Elizabeth is going to continue to be developed, but how it happens and how it impacts the town will be determined by decisions we begin to make now. For this reason, the review and update of the comprehensive plan will be a very important process that will provide a roadmap into the future.

2. Making improvements to the town’s road system so that they are safer for people walking and bicycling and explore transit services. The current town comp plan mentions the need to improve bicycle and pedestrian conditions in town, but little has been done to implement the recommendations. Providing safe walking and bicycling conditions will improve quality of life in town, and encourage people to explore alternatives to driving for every short trip, reducing congestion. As a complement to these efforts, the town should explore what it would take to get a bus transit route from the town center to Portland.

3. Balancing sensible budgeting with the delivery of needed town services. Towns need to support services like waste management, police, fire and rescue departments and schools, especially as they grow. Cape Elizabeth needs to balance how it spends money on these and other services with the need to keep the tax burden manageable. Hard conversations about how to prioritize what the town budget is spent on need to occur, and new sources of revenue need to be searched out and tapped.

1) Why are you seeking elected office?

I am seeking office because I think I can have a positive impact on town government, and because I think town government can have a positive impact on our community.

I will bring a balanced, collaborative and positive perspective to the council. In my professional life, I have worked with towns across the state, and I have a good insight into how public processes can most effectively work. These professional experiences have taught me that, contrary to what many Americans believe, government can do tremendous good, and the people who serve in government are generally good, sincere people who want to serve their communities. I believe I can work with the other members of the council to achieve the sensible compromises that are at the core of the representative democratic system. I am open-minded, willing to be persuaded with reason and data, and committed to working to improve the quality of life for the residents of Cape Elizabeth.

I feel I have in some measure already been working to improve the quality of life for the people of Cape Elizabeth by serving on the Conservation Committee to manage, maintain and improve our great Greenbelt system. This has been satisfying work, and I am interested in expanding my role in helping to keep Cape Elizabeth a great place to live, work and play.

2) There has been talk over the years, including in the last few weeks, about how to manage Fort Williams Park better. One solution could be to hire a dedicated park manager. What do you see as the management/ operational challenges at the park and how would you recommend addressing them?

I am not opposed to the creation of a park manager position for Fort Williams, but my first question regarding such a move is “how do we pay for this position?” Managing the sharp increase in use of the park by local visitors as well as tourists coming in by bus will be at the heart of the challenges facing the park over the short to medium term. But I do not believe that more of the town budget should be committed to Fort Williams. I believe tour bus visitation rates should be reviewed to make sure that the tour operators are sharing their business success with the town that supports the asset they are making money on. I further believe that implementing a small fee (say $3-5) to park a car at Fort Williams would generate the revenue to cover most of its expenses, including the park manager position, and perhaps fund other town initiatives and projects as well. There is no reason the people of Cape Elizabeth need to shoulder the entire burden of providing stewardship for an attraction with regional, national and international appeal.

3) The town is in the midst of a comprehensive plan update process. What is your vision for the future of Cape Elizabeth and, if elected, how would your role as councilor, help meet that vision?

It is said that “towns either get what they plan for, or they get what they don’t plan for”. To preserve the uniquely special qualities of Cape Elizabeth, we need to plan for the future we want – or we will deal with whatever unmanaged and unplanned-for growth inevitably occurs.

My vision of Cape Elizabeth is one in which the town: continues to maintain its rural character as it grows, considers the needs of all its residents in the services and amenities it provides and improves the safe access of people walking and bicycling on our roadways. My role as councilor will be to mobilize people to share their vision with the comprehensive plan committee, and to help ensure that we have a solid public process that captures how the residents of Cape Elizabeth want their town to evolve over the next decade.

Return to top