On the issues: Rockand City Council Candidate Adam Lachman

Mon, 11/07/2022 - 1:00pm
    Four candidates are competing for two open seats on the Rockland City Council, with elections set for Nov. 8. Both seats represent three-year terms. Those running for office are Nathan Davis, Adam Lachman, Steven MacDonald and Penelope York. Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their positions on issues. Here, candidate Adam Lachman responds:
    Please provide a concise biography of yourself.

    I have lived in the Midcoast most of my life, the past several years on Main Street in Rockland with my partner Jenn Rockwell and our two dogs. I graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in Sociology and a focus in housing. I am the youngest of four and only American-born in my family who immigrated to the United States from apartheid South Africa in 1976. I love Rockland, its incredible people, its natural assets, and its history and potential as a leader in our state, and I look forward to the future of raising a family here.

    I am an entrepreneur, community builder, and problem solver. As a senior in high school, I started a small food business on Vinalhaven, which I soon expanded to North Haven, and later co-founded a nationally recognized restaurant in Seattle. Many of you may know me from my work at night at Ada’s Kitchen, where I help my partner Jenn run a small family-owned restaurant and vibrant community anchor in our downtown. 

    In my other job, I work in the United States Senate as a senior economic advisor to U.S Senator Angus King (I-ME), where for over a decade, I have worked directly with communities across Maine to address many of the same challenges we face here in Rockland.  I served on the Governor’s 2020 Economic Recovery Committee to stabilize the state’s economy and build a bridge to future prosperity in response to the pandemic and currently sit on the Executive Committee of the State of Maine’s 10-year Economic Plan, a non-partisan plan to grow and diversify the future of Maine’s economy. This work across our state is all about solving problems and helping communities have the resources, revenue, and capacity to build a better future.

    I played an integral role in the writing and passage of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, aka the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, securing $65 billion in historic funding in broadband infrastructure, digital equity funding (over $300 million for Maine), and infrastructure to support communities. I wrote and secured key provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) including the $10 billion Capital Projects Fund to support municipalities and counties throughout Maine. I’ve helped secure millions of dollars in funding for communities to strengthen public and mental health services, to establish workforce development initiatives, to help invest in public safety and education.  I have the experience and track record of delivering results, and I am energized to help Rockland meet these challenges.

    What are Rockland's greatest strengths, and how do you hope to support them?

    I love our city and believe Rockland’s best days are ahead. Rockland’s greatest strengths are its people, who embody ingenuity, creativity, and a tremendous sense of pride in our community. Our city boasts incredible natural assets, most notably our location on the Gulf of Maine and our working waterfront and harbor which has created economic opportunity for generations. Rockland has amazing potential to continue to thrive as a community that enables innovation and a diversity of ideas and creativity, but in order to do so we need actionable plans to ensure Rockland remains accessible and affordable. I hope to bring effective leadership, experience, and ideas to our city to ensure the Council prioritizes issues that matter to the residents of Rockland and that we take steps to generate new revenue that will allow us to invest in our infrastructure, our youth, and our future.
    What are Rockland's greatest issues to address?

    Our housing crisis and the need for Rockland to generate new revenue to help lessen the tax burden on city residents. The lack of accessible housing is impacting far too many who are increasingly unable to afford to live and work in Rockland. We need practical solutions that lead to more housing and investment in our city. We also need to address infrastructure in dire need of repair and prioritize investments that will enable a future of sustainable growth and vitality. Rockland needs a long-term infrastructure and emergency management plan to address city assets in dire need of repair and to better prepare for stormwater management and the impacts of climate change, rising sea level, and severe weather events. By using funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill and related state and federal programs, Rockland can modernize its vulnerable infrastructure, while saving taxpayer money in the future.

    Is the Rockland Police Department on the right course, and does it integrate well into the community?

    I have great confidence in our new police chief Tim Carroll who I’ve met with multiple times. We’ve discussed the challenges facing our city including how we respond to the prevalence of substance abuse/mental health issues and how we better provide resources to those in need, how we can better engage our youth and improve the continuity of support across social service organizations, and efforts to strengthen the department with recruitment and training. Chief Carroll is a community-focused leader with a proven track record, and his experience working on these issues as County Sheriff will greatly benefit Rockland. I’ve attended city meetings regarding the Department and spoken regularly with community members about public safety. Our public safety leaders and departments play a critical role in the overall health of our city and I feel strongly we can work together as a community to support the Chief on community efforts to address these challenges and the needs of Rockland residents. 

    Is internet access to citizens adequate and affordable? If not, how would you make it so? (According to the census, 85.9 percent of households have a computer.)

    Ensuring every Rockland citizen can access affordable internet should be a priority. Thankfully due to work I was directly involved with in writing the historic broadband and digital infrastructure provisions in the bipartisan infrastructure bill (which established the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program and the Digital Equity Act), Maine will be the recipient of historic broadband funding. This funding will help not only address those who don’t have access to affordable high-speed broadband but will also include funding to improve digital literacy, provide access to affordable internet-connect devices like laptops and tablets, improve the availability of telehealth and remote work opportunities, and ensure anyone regardless of background, age or income can access the powerful tools of the internet. Building off of these resources, we need to ensure Rockland has adequate public wifi in our downtown and works to attract investment to support the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs in our city. 

    What is your vision for Rockland Harbor given the increased demand for real estate, and Maine’s longtime goal to protect the working waterfront?
    Rockland has one of the best harbors on the entire eastern seaboard. Our harbor and working waterfront continues to be a significant driver of our economy and defines our identity, past, present, and future. We need to ensure we carefully manage and protect the diverse uses in and around our harbor and work to strengthen coastal infrastructure that supports our fishery and working waterfront. We need to balance these competing issues and make sure activities in and around our harbor benefits the city and improves the lives of Rockland residents. We need to also prioritize public access to the harbor and work to ensure it remains a vibrant place to work and prime destination for visitors of all ages. I helped our city identify and secure federal funding to start rebuilding our commercial fish pier, a critical piece of infrastructure for our working waterfront and future economic growth in our region.  I look forward to building off of the good work in the Harbor Management Plan to make sure we have strategies in place to improve public access and attract new revenue that will help Rockland invest in its infrastructure, while also alleviating the tax burden on city residents.


    How best should Rockland address the current housing shortage? According to the census, the city’s population is just a few hundred fewer than the 2010 census of 7,297. 

    Increasing the availability of accessible and affordable housing should be a top priority for the city council. Rockland’s current housing shortage affects our entire community and threatens our vitality as a place to live and work.  Rockland needs a comprehensive strategy on how to address the housing crisis and should convene a task force of community members, developers, and regional stakeholders to develop a plan that we can put into action. We need to update our city-wide housing surveys including upper level housing in the downtown (last conducted in 2011) and move expeditiously to enable public-private partnerships that bring investments in new and retrofitted housing in Rockland. We should work to attract more projects like Caleb Lincoln’s redevelopment of 404-408 Main Street into nine new affordable apartments downtown and support creative approaches like MidCoast Regional Housing Trust’s multi-pronged plan to expand workforce housing. We should prioritize incentives like an accessible housing TIF and affordable housing density bonuses, and make sure the city is actively pursuing state funding through programs like the multi-family housing loan/grant program. We have an opportunity to work with our city planner and the public to increase the availability of accessible housing, especially in underutilized upper floor buildings and areas where development would enhance the vibrancy of our city.

    The Belfast Council approved last April new zoning ordinances  to create additional opportunities for housing, including ‘flex housing,’ an approach that could allow a property owner to construct one or more single-family, two-family, three-family or four-family houses on their property. Should Rockland consider something similar?

    In conversations with city staff and community members, it is clear that Rockland’s zoning is over complicated, cumbersome, and too often in conflict, making it not user friendly and difficult to enforce. I would support efforts to have the city conduct a thorough review of our zoning to simplify and streamline zoning consistent with recommendations from the comprehensive plan so it reflects existing and future uses. Rockland is fortunate to have a new, experienced city planner. I applaud the efforts to review the city’s zoning under Chapter 19 to identify inconsistencies and areas where it can be improved. We should be listening to his recommendations and the public to develop policies that create economic opportunity for more Rockland residents.  I look forward to working to help operationalize the good work of the city’s updated comprehensive plan and working to create incentives like TIFs to increase the supply of accessible and affordable housing. We need to simplify our zoning to encourage smart development and revenue generation opportunities for our city to lower our tax burden, all while protecting vulnerable residents in our community and the integrity of our neighborhoods and downtown. 
    How shall Rockland best manage short term rentals?

    Rockland’s policies on short term rentals should be informed by a transparent process and public input, and value the investments property owners have made in their homes that contribute to the city’s economy.  I believe the focus on short-term rentals as the solution to our housing issues is misplaced. The conversation on short-term rentals distracts us from the real, hard priority work that needs to be done to ensure we have accessible housing in our city and a sustainable tax base that enables people of all means to live in Rockland. We can’t regulate our way out of our housing crisis alone. Rockland needs more housing units and we need to prioritize realistic efforts that will attract investment in the development of accessible housing and conversion of existing buildings into housing.

    A recent revaluation resulted in higher home valuations and taxes. How will you help those homeowners facing a precipitous increase in property taxes?

    Rockland needs new revenue generation to lessen the burden of increasing property taxes. It is simply unsustainable and inappropriate for the city to continue to look to its taxpayers as the sole solution to paying for the city’s budget. Without a clear economic plan and marketing strategy, Rockland will continue to find itself with limited options and far too many people will be displaced because they are unable to afford to live in our city. I look forward to bringing my experience in economic development to help the city actively pursue grants such as the Community Development Block Grant program, and will make it a top priority on council to prioritize efforts to attract new businesses and opportunities to diversify our tax base. 

    We also need to have a more engaged, long-term discussion about the impact of the school budget on the city’s tax base as part of multi-year budget planning. Addressing the city’s unsustainable tax burden is going to take skilled leadership from the council, working collaboratively on equitable solutions. I am committed to working to find quick wins to lessen our tax burden, while not losing focus on core issues that will make Rockland financially sound and to ensure our city is a community that is accessible to all.

    Is the city on the right path in developing its public walkways and bicycle infrastructure?

    Rockland has significant infrastructure needs and there is always more work the city can be doing to improve public walkways, bicycle, and pedestrian access and safety. I look forward to working with our city manager and staff to help our city to be more competitive and proactive in pursuing grants and to work to increase opportunities for the public to inform the city’s infrastructure priorities.

    Does the city have enough public access to the ocean and lakes?

    I believe the city’s geographic position on the Gulf of Maine is one of Rockland’s greatest strengths and opportunities. While the city has made some good progress over recent years, there are areas we can do better to increase, improve, and protect public access.

    What is the importance of local government, and how do you see yourself, as a city councilor, in it?

    As someone who has worked in government for over a decade, I believe local government is the one place where problems can be identified and solved, and where its success depends on public participation and how we value the voice of the community. As I knock on doors and listen to public comments from neighbors at city council meetings, I hear many of the same concerns about affordability, lack of housing, unsustainable taxes, and changes that are remaking our city far too drastically. I also hear a common love for and sense of pride in our city and its potential. I hope to contribute to better aligning the priorities of the council with the issues Rockland residents care about, through better communication with the public and a clearer and more transparent process. I believe local government can make a difference and be part of the solution. I am committed to the hard work to make sure we are prepared to manage the challenges we face as a community.

    How do you see Rockland fitting into the greater regional economy and culture, and how would you like develop that?

    Rockland is a beacon of opportunity in the Midcoast and a leader in our regional economy.  People come to Rockland from all over to work, visit, and recreate, and it is because we are home to amazing people, a wonderful diversity of businesses small and large, and the very best cultural institutions in the state including nationally-renowned museums, galleries, restaurants. Rockland needs to better market itself as a destination to invest in and to continue to work with organizations like Rockland Main Street on efforts to attract and support entrepreneurs and talent (especially those in our schools today) who can contribute to future ideas, culture, and economic opportunity that will benefit our city.  Many of the challenges we face (i.e. lack of housing, workforce shortages, substance abuse issues and changes to our coastal environment) would benefit from more active and better regional coordination and planning. Rockland should be a leader in those conversations to develop regional capacity and effective responses, and I look forward to bringing my experience working with organizations statewide to build on our economic and cultural strengths.
    Where are your favorite places to spend time in the Rockland community? 

    I love walking with our dogs along the water by Captain Spear Drive, along the Tilson Avenue Corridor, and on our harbor trail meeting people from here and all across the country who love Rockland.  I also enjoy spending time in our historic downtown, at the wonderful festivals in Harbor Park, and participating in the dynamic cultural activities in our city.

    Free space! Anything else you'd like to say to the voters that we haven’t considered?

    Thank you for reading and learning more about this year’s city council race. Over the past three years, I’ve attended almost every city council meeting and I have seen firsthand where the council can prioritize better. We all know the issues, what we need are actionable plans from the council. I have committed my life to public service and want to bring my experience helping communities across the state of Maine to our city. I would be honored to serve on the Rockland City Council. For me this is not about personal ambition or a personal agenda, but rather a commitment to public service and a passion for working with our community on outcomes that will strengthen Rockland’s future.