2017-11-02 / News

Two compete for council seat

Ward 4 Councilor Kevin Roche will not seek reelection this fall. Vying to replace his two-year seat on the council are Michael Burman and Lynn Copeland. Below are survey responses in alphabetical order.

Name: Michael Burman
Age: 38
Address: 6 Margaret Circle
Phone: 370-0386
Occupation: UNE professor and

scientist
Family: My wife Margaret is an
art teacher in South Portland. I have
two daughters, aged 9 and 6.
Education completed: I have
a Ph.D. in Biological Psychology/
Neuroscience
Organizations and activities
(including past political

experience): I’m the parent representative on the Saco

School District’s strategic planning committee. I’m on the board of directors of the Michael T. Goulet Foundation for Brain Injury and Epilepsy. I’m an advisor for the Maine Science Festival. I’m chairman of the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Assembly at UNE and former chairman of the Financial Affairs Committee of the University Faculty Assembly. I’m treasurer for the Maine Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. I’m also past president of the UNE Chapter of the American Association for University Professors.

Top three issues:

1. Education. My family chose Saco as our home, in part due to the family friendly nature of the town and our impression that the schools provided a top-tier education. However, the reality turns out to be a bit different. Our teachers are incredible, but the tools we give them to work with are inadequate. One of our schools is made up entirely of portables. Per pupil spending is 17/18 among our comparison districts. We are simply not investing in educating our children and the schools and the outcomes reflect that. This discourages new families, including potential entrepreneurs, from moving in.

2. Responsible budgeting. We need to look at the longterm, not simply year-to-year. I’m sympathetic about tax increases. Mine have gone up too. I’m also aware that many houses get passed down for generations, seeing values (and therefore taxes) skyrocket while incomes remain stagnant. However, our effort to cut taxes has gone the wrong direction. We’ve cut not only waste, but investments which would lower spending in the future. We need to ensure that we’re making the right investments today, encouraging responsible growth and financial stability so our children and grandchildren have the kind of city we’d want for them.

3. Protecting and utilizing our environment. It’s the river, the ocean and beaches, the heath, the woods and the close access to urban areas that make Saco unique. Yet, Saco Bay and Goosefare Brook are filthy and often closed due to bacteria contamination. Camp Ellis is literally washing away, along with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in sand we dump on it. Our river is mostly surrounded by abandoned buildings and uncared for parks. Yet, we have world class environmental and marine scientists next door who can help. I will ensure the unique parts of Saco are protected and exploited.

Why are you seeking elected office?

I believe that one of our obligations as humans and as citizens is to live in service of others. In addition, I believe that if we see an opportunity to improve the world around us, we are obligated to attempt to do so. For both of these reasons, I feel called to join Saco’s leadership.

I believe that Saco’s leaders have two fundamental responsibilities. First, we need to take care of those who have come before us. We have lots of retirees and people on fixed incomes. These people and their families have invested lifetimes into our community. We need to ensure that they can stay in their homes and are as comfortable as we can make them. Second, and equally important, we need to be looking toward the future. We need to be educating our children and putting into place the infrastructure they’ll need to be successful. We need to be protecting our environment and our economy, so that both are strong when the next generation comes of age. We need to be thinking about our great grandchildren and the legacy we’ll leave to them. The challenge then, is how to invest in our future without overly taxing our past. I worry that our town has become too focused on reducing taxes and spending today, losing sight of longterm costs. By placing priority on both the future and retirees, I believe we can strike the proper balance for everyone.

What should Saco residents expect of their city councilor?

Honesty, transparency, integrity, engagement and rigor. I view the job of a city councilor as one of public service. We work on behalf of the citizens of the city, and especially our ward, because getting the whole city together to make decisions would be cumbersome. Thus, it’s not my role to instill my values onto Saco, but to ensure that I understand the values and wishes of Saco’s citizens and enact them as best as I can.

To accomplish this, I have an obligation to become as informed as I can about the issues that are in front of the council. I cannot act on behalf of Saco if I remain ignorant about the issues. Second, I must engage with the public. I cannot represent the will of Saco citizens if I have not taken the time to find out what the public wants. However, if something is controversial and in front of council, it probably means that there is some disagreement about what is best. I cannot make everyone happy, but I do have an obligation to be transparent in how and why I engaged in my decision and to be honest in my dealings with the public, city staff and other council members.

Perhaps most importantly, councilors need to operate with integrity. With a clear moral compass, we need to be guided by what is best for the city and our wards over the long term, not by what is easy to accomplish today nor by what is best for a small group of supporters and friends. Our responsibility is to the public and the future citizens and we must be able meet that responsibility even when the decisions are difficult.

Overall, when elected to Saco’s city council, you can expect me to do my best to ensure the City is working on behalf of both current and future citizens. You can expect me to be available to hear your ideas and concerns and to work to incorporate them into our processes. You can expect me to always act for what I believe are the city’s best interests.

What is a city councilor’s greatest responsibility to Saco residents?

The greatest responsibility of a city councilor to Saco’s residents is to work for the future while considering the needs of today’s citizens. The most visible way this happens is through the budget. Council’s job is to prevent wasteful use of public resources. However, there are two types of waste that the council can engage in. The first is unnecessary spending on frivolous projects. The second is failing to make necessary and helpful investments to ensure a fiscally sound future. Saco has been good at avoiding the first one, but falling short on avoiding the second.

My belief is that we cannot overly prioritize either current spending control or future investments, but need to balance the two. For example, cutting staff at public works included the recycling coordinator. The resulting low recycling levels cost the city about $60,000 per year. The amount which would fund that position and more. Cutting maintenance budgets for equipment and roads have increased the repair and replacement spending the city incurs. Not investing in our schools has not only hurt the education we’re providing, but deters new families from moving in, and likely will incur additional costs in the future. Failing to provide adequate resources at the industrial parks discourages new businesses from moving in. Withholding these investments does not save us money over the long-term, but costs us revenue instead. This raises the burden on all of us.

Finally, I need to point out that fiscal responsibility isn’t the only kind of long-term responsibility that needs to be balanced against current needs. We have an obligation to be environmental stewards and protect our natural resources, while still allowing current citizens adequate access. We have an obligation to be cultural stewards, ensuring that the values and traditions of the past are passed down to the future, while still accommodating shifting generational mores and demographics. Overall, we need to protect what makes Saco great today, while preparing for what will make us great in the future.

Name: Lynn H. Copeland
Age: 56 years young
Position seeking: Saco City Council, Ward 4 seat
Address: 526 Ferry Road
Phone: 494-9394
Occupation: Legal assistant, notary public

Family: Happily married to
Gregory Copeland; have two
grown-up successful children
who both chose to remain nearby
in Maine after graduating from
USM, one also a graduated from
the Muskie School of Public
Health with her master’s; and our
rescue dog Brady. Gregory, Brady
and I live in our 250-year-old
home on the Ferry Road.
Education completed: Some
college; Emerge Maine Class of
2017

Organizations and activities: Chairman, Saco
Conservation Commission; secretary, Saco Democratic
City Committee; Elected York County Member, Platform
Committee of the Maine Democratic Party; delegate,
Maine Democratic Convention; caucus captain, Bernie
Sanders Campaign during local Democratic Caucus;
Former vice president of MOAC (Maine Outdoor
Adventure Club), with over 700 members statewide;
Former Girl Scout Leader earning Outstanding Volunteer
award

Three issues:

1. Generating a larger industrial base to create economic growth and offset property taxes is my top priority issue. Transferring some of the tax burden from residential to an industrial base will allow for tax relief for our elderly, young families, and those struggling to remain in their homes. As I have campaigned door to door, the citizens of Saco have expressed their fear of not being able to afford their real estate taxes. Increasing the non-residential tax base, together with keeping the reigns on spending will help those most at risk.

2. Education is critical to our success as a community. Having Thornton Academy as our high school is a draw for families who search for excellence in their schools as a basis for relocation, and is a key factor for our growth. Our school buildings need to be up-to-date with today’s technology to prepare our students for the future, and be energy efficient to bring operational costs down. The K-8 students need to be prepared academically for Thornton Academy. As a therapeutic foster parent, I care deeply about children and their entire well-rounded educational experience. Our kids are our future.

3. Embracing and protecting our natural resources including the Saco River, beaches, brooks, parks, trails and all the places we play is important for current and future residents. We must continue to work toward an expedited resolution of the long-standing erosion issue in Camp Ellis. In addition, the creation of a greenbelt would connect natural resources to protect open space and add to our recreational opportunities while keeping our city the beautiful place it is. Further, with the reality of federal environmental regulations and protections falling to local government, we must encourage conservation and use of renewable resources.

Why are you seeking elected office?

Being a therapeutic foster parent, we had a foster child in our home who was a young teenager and went Saco Middle School. Having come from a troubled home, idle time for him proved disastrous. We need to keep all our kids safe from mischief and drugs and encourage participation within the community to help them reach their full potential.

The opiate crisis is real and it is here. Kids with nothing else to do but hang around are at a greater risk by outside influences, including drug and alcohol users. When asked by paramedics assisting teenagers during an overdose, many kids say they did drugs because they didn’t have anything better to do. We looked for things to fill our foster son’s afternoons and days off from school when my husband and I were at work. We found there were plenty of things for younger kids but, outside of sports, there was not as much available for younger teens.

That caused me to ask how I could make that situation better, and by extension how can I make Saco better? I am currently working with the Age Friendly Saco kids and the middle school principal to have our senior citizens come to the middle school for lunch and create relationships which would lead to more after school opportunities once they discover the things they have in common.

A vote for me is a vote for the future of our youth.

What should Saco residents expect of their city councilor?

Over the last few months I have met with a lot of my neighbors who are happy with the many great things happening in Saco: the new coffee shops downtown, the proposed Saco Island project, and Krispy Kreme, just to name a few. Others have brought up wonderful ideas on how to make this great city even greater. The enthusiasm to improve the way of life in Saco is evident. I can’t help but feel good when citizens are sharing their visions and taking actions to make our community better.

Helping others is a way of life in Saco. Volunteers clean up the beaches, Saco River and engage students to revitalize parks and mark storm drains. Businesses are supporting the community by decorating Adirondack chairs for auction. Even the gardens around city hall are beautifully maintained by a volunteer. It’s when we all come together and participate in our community that we make a difference.

What we need in a city councilor is someone who can bring out the best in our community. Someone who cares, works hard and is hands-on. Someone who is self-less and can lead people in a positive direction connecting people with their community to make it a better place than it was before.

The residents of Saco should expect their councilor to be a positive leader who leads by example. I am that person. I welcome the citizens of Saco to continue this communication and collaboration with me and I ask for your vote for Saco City Council.

What is a city councilor’s greatest responsibility to Saco residents?

Campaigning and knocking on hundreds of doors in Ward 4, I have been reminded of just how diverse our community is. From Glenwood Avenue to our beaches, the neighborhoods are unique in their character, concerns and needs. Taxes and the budgets are a universal concern, but there were many other important issues like the Camp Ellis jetty, eroding beaches, as well as welcoming more businesses to the industrial and business parks, creating jobs, traffic control, additional crosswalks and transportation needs.

A city councilor’s greatest responsibility to Saco residents is to be their voice in city government. I will be their advocate on issues large and small. I will listen to constituents and make their concerns my concerns. I will actively and cooperatively work with the mayor, other councilors, school board and city departments on behalf of constituents. Each vote I make as councilor will be made in an informed and thoughtful manner for the betterment of all the citizens of Saco. I know that together we can make good things happen here in Saco.

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