Officially a Selectwoman of Sidney, Maine

My official title is: Selectman, Assessor, and Overseer of the Poor.

The town meeting was lively and very well attended. I think I roughly calculated 80+ people.

The topics that got the most attention on the warrant were (1) raising $1,900 for Spectrum Generations, (2) raising $1,052 for Life Flight, and (3) a mass gathering ordinance for the town of Sidney for gatherings over 1,000 people. All 3 were rejected.  I felt personally close to 2 of those 3 articles.

Town meeting was concluded in 2.5 hours and there were a total of 40 articles on the warrant. Pretty efficient voting!

It was very interesting to meet more Sidney townsfolk and hear their points of view. Sidney is a fairly conservative group of folks who do not like being burdened with excess regulation.  (The mass gathering town ordinance lost in a landslide “no” vote.)  It also seemed to me that the folks of Sidney are also mostly in favor of supporting services that directly benefit Sidney residents. I truly wish more Sidney voters would turn up at town hall meetings – and I bet Spectrum Generations would have gotten their funding.

And at the end, as people were departing, I was officially sworn in as a Selectman. First official meeting is Monday, March 26th (and this time I can stay for the executive sessions!)

Sidney Annual Town Meeting is Mar. 24, 2018

Town meetings tend to be notoriously under-attended. Perhaps folks prefer not to spend hours of one of their Saturdays cooped up with other townsfolk? Or maybe people feel a little intimidated because they don’t know what happens at town meetings or how to participate?

I, for one, know I sometimes hesitate to speak up and ask a question about topics I may know little about. So I did a little Googling (something I am pretty good at) and I found this lovely Guide to Town Meetings on the Maine Municipal Association’s website.

The entire MMA website is a terrific resource for people who want to learn more local and state government – and even take classes on how to become a representative.

Don’t be intimidated to participate in your town government. I know many folks are skeptical or even jaded that their involvement doesn’t matter – but you couldn’t be more wrong. Not every idea, suggestion or argument you make will be followed and acted upon, of course, but if your voice is never heard, you never have that chance to make a difference  – and at the town level, these differences can have major impacts.

So…..when is your next Annual Town Meeting?  Go check out your town’s Facebook page and website. Maybe give the meeting a go this year!

Sidney Maine Annual Budget Meeting 2/17

Image result for annual budget meeting memeJust got back from a 3 hour annual budget meeting at the Sidney Town Hall. There were 5 folks there to present their requests for funding and, besides myself, I think there was one other townsperson there just for the sake of listening in.

I love numbers, and budgeting, so it was a pretty interesting meeting to me. And the chair of the budget committee, John (I’ll have to find his last name), was a humorous hoot. He’d make an excellent auctioneer, too.

I thought on the way home that it really is a shame that more Sidney residents don’t attend these annual meetings – and for years, I didn’t either. This thought is not meant to pass judgment on any Sidney resident. Folks are busy with young families, older families, and just life in general. I fell into that category for many years. And now, as my kids are older and more independent, I find I have more time, and desire, to participate.

A lot of important discussions take place. Discussions like deciding which charity requests for funding will be presented to the townsfolk of Sidney on March 24th at the Annual Town Meeting for voting. How much funding for new equipment, supplies, maintenance, etc. that our volunteer Fire & Rescue folks get. Thoughts and procedures for new town ordinances. Lots of things.

For Sidney, one particularly sensitive issue arises repeatedly. It becomes an emotional and administrative tug-of-war to support the vast number of charity donation and support requests that come through. Everyone needs more money. In our hearts most wish all could be funded. But they cannot. In most cases, support requests get a motion for $0 dollars from the Board of Selectmen with a request to raise the requested amount. This means it goes before the citizens of Sidney for a vote at the annual town meeting. A point was made at the budget meeting today that normally it’s the folks who need the services from said charities that show up at the meeting to vote…and no matter how many voters there are, majority wins.

Sidney has about 4,200 residents, a large portion which are eligible to vote. Only about 40 folks, roughly 1%, show up at the town meeting. And if they vote YES on a measure that will add $1-2 tax dollars to your bill to pay for raising that money, the majority of Sidney is left to simply accept the decision. Now, this is not to say that its not a good vote.

I would support paying $1 to $2 dollars extra on my tax bill to support charities that provide quantifiable/justifiable life-enhancing/life-saving services to our elder and disabled residents. Charities like Spectrum Generations and Life Flight. We are a small, rural town tucked between 2 larger towns and our taxes are one of the lowest in Maine, because we have no overhead services, no post office, no police department. Services provided by Spectrum Generations and Life Flight can sometimes make the difference between life and death. I would gladly pay a few extra dollars on my taxes to support such charities. I would not, however, like my taxes to be raised for a charity that doesn’t provide substantial benefit to my community, small as it is. And, fair point, there are folks in Sidney who have trouble paying their annual property taxes, let alone support charities by having their taxes raised.

I would encourage Sidney residents to participate in the annual budget meeting in February and the annual town meeting in March. Grab a cup of Joe from Annie’s Variety Store or the Middle Road General Store and schedule 3 hours of your time just a couple times a year to be a more informed resident.

We also need more women. There are NO women on the budget committee. There are women on the Select Board.

Rise up my Sidney brethren. Find some time here or there. Make your voice heard and use your vote to effect changes you want (or don’t want!) Take a look at the calendar on Sidney’s website and keep up to date on Sidney’s Facebook page.

I’ll be there with a smile ready to shake your hand and show you around 🙂

 

Sidney Selectboard Meeting 1/29/2018

I have decided that I will sit in on Sidney’s Selectboard How do towns handle mass gatherings? meetings now through the time I am sworn in at the annual town meeting.  I wanted to start meeting everyone, get a feel for the flow of the meetings, absorb my colleagues’ energy, and learn more about the issues on the table.

Tonight’s meeting was filled with items from approving the minutes from last week, to discussing the proposal/quote for printing the town’s annual meeting report, to an executive session to review town employees’ performance (I had to leave for the exec parts :-), to AED/CPR training and certification, to the big ticket on the agenda, which was creating a mass gathering ordinance for our town that is fair to all tax-paying residents. We also had a visit from 2 representatives from Spectrum Generations, who asked the Selectboard to consider adding a request for monetary support for approval/vote by the town.

I met Angela more formally tonight. She is the Admin. Assist. to the Board of Selectman and she is very good at what she does. I met Leon, the warm bear of a man who keeps Sidney’s roads in tip-top shape. I got to say hi to Winnie, our Town Clerk, Treasurer & Tax Collector, before she scooted in for her annual review.  And I met Tim, John, Laura, and Sarah, 4 of the 5 current Selectpersons.

You can tell they’ve worked together for a while. They have quick, playful banter, can finish each others sentences, and though they clearly have different views on issues, they speak to each other very respectfully and hear each other out.

I learned that I will have to play catch up on some local and state law and tonight Google was my friend to explain “abatements” a bit more for me. But I am up to the challenge and I look forward to working with this group of dedicated individuals. It feels exciting to be a part of my local government and I am a bit awed at the opportunity to serve the 4,208 residents of Sidney, most of whom don’t even know I exist 🙂  I always did like working behind the curtains!

The Journey Begins

One person can make a difference, and everyone should try. — John F. Kennedy

Today, January 19, 2018, I submitted my signature list to the town office of Sidney, Maine to run for one of the open selectpersons’ positions. Universe willing I will be able to serve after the town vote on March 23rd, 2018. If elected, I’ll get sworn in on March 24th at the Annual Town Meeting.

I have lived in Sidney for 17 years. This is my first foray into public service (so long as you don’t count being part of the PTO or a Cub Scout Den Leader.) I have decided I want to try and make a difference in my community. It takes leadership, cooperation, and organization at this very local level to impact policies and decisions at higher levels. Have to start somewhere. At the very least I am eager for the opportunity to learn how my town operates and to be more involved in decision-making and outcomes.

One of the biggest surprises to me as I collected signatures was how many couples there were in my immediate vicinity, older couples, where the husband was registered, but the wife was not – and the sentiment was that voting really doesn’t matter anyway. I passionately beg to differ. I will find data on close-call local races that shows just how much one or two votes can make a difference.

My intent in setting up this site is to share information, solicit opinions, listen to suggestions and ideas, and to bring your voice to selectboard meetings if you are not able to participate. I sincerely make myself available to you and you have my word that I will do the best job I can.