2016-08-18 / Letters

Watchdog group asks for charter question to be revoked

To the editor:

On Nov. 8, Biddeford residents will vote on a number of proposals that will amend or add to the city charter.

As a citizens’ group we would like to thank the Charter Revision Commission for the hard work and transparent process.

Some of the proposals are very good and will clarify the charter. There is one proposal that we believe is highly ill advised and could result in risky spending by our city government.

That proposal is entitled “Contributions.” It states: “The city may invest, lend or otherwise contribute to any private entity for the purpose of assisting that private entity. If there is no exchange of goods or services as a result of the expenditure annually the city shall issue a report of all such funds. Said reports shall cover the last calendar year and shall be published no later than the release of the last city budget. Further, any agent or agency receiving funds that are used in the same fashion shall be required to meet the same requirements of the city.”

We believe the city should not invest in any private entity without the review and approval of a licensed securities and investment professional and with full vetting and public approval by the city council. The city already has the ability to contribute to social service agencies that serve the people of Biddeford through the budget process.

As taxpayers we fail to see the benefits of the private entity “investments” such as the $60,000 facade improvement program that has benefited only building owners in the downtown area. Or a watering truck, purchased for $20,000 to water downtown trees and plantings requested by nonprofit, non-tax paying groups serving the downtown. Or micro-enterprise loans to restaurants that end up not opening. We are also concerned with contributions made to various nonprofit entities that have not produced measured results. There have been other questionable uses of tax dollars as well, including the purchase of the city’s largest taxpayer, MERC, and the subsequent lease of nearby parking for a nominal amount in spite of nonperformance by the developer.

The city should have a capped amount on which it can expend on loans, contributions or purchases after which it would have to seek approval from the voters.

Since the charter revision process is still open we humbly as the Charter Review Commission to withdraw this proposal from the list to be submitted to the City Council that will subsequently be sent to the voters.

Howard Hanson and Craig Cantara Concerned Citizens of Biddeford

Return to top