On the issues: Rockland City Council Candidate Don Robishaw

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 2:00am
    Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate running for the Rockland City Council, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the town and region. The candidate responses are posted as they are returned, and are collected on the Pilot’s Elections Resource Page.

    Please provide a concise biography of yourself
    I am a 61 year old native of Rockland. I graduated from Rockland District High School in 1976.

    I have been married for 42 years, and have one son, and a daughter-in-law, who have two sons which attend RSU 13 schools.

    After graduation, I became involved in coaching youth softball, basketball, baseball, and later with football.

    I joined the Rockland Fire Department paid on call division in the fall of 1978 or 1979. I was hired to the full time division April 1980, working until I retired, achieving the rank of Assistant Fire Chief and Paramedic.

    I returned to the Call Division as a Captain and Safety Officer. I also filled in at the Code Office one summer conducting apartment inspections.

     I am also a Level III State Fire Instructor, working for more than 30 years.
    In this capacity I have trained not only locally but across the state training firefighers to protect their communities at the same time being safe.
    I served on the SAD 5 Chemical Health Awareness Team, Knox County Head Start Program Committee, drove school bus, assisted several adults to receive their bus endorsements, and continue to teach CPR and First Aid for citizens and local businesses. 
    I served four years on the school board during that time serving as chair of the Finance Committee. 
    What are Rockland's greatest strengths, and how do you hope to maintain them?
    Rockland has always been a working community. The Lime City harvested lime from it's quarries, to the fishing industry, tourism, art galleries, building yachts, to the fine dining and local shopkeepers.
    With the decline in the fishing industry and the closure of fish packing plants, Rockland 's resourcefulness turned to revitalization of Main Street and the Industrial Park.
    I would work to keep the Industrial Park open and full of thriving businesses. If it is possible to expand the Industrial Park it would help increase the tax base.
    I would encourage Main Street to develop their upper floors, either for retail spaces, offices, or for living spaces.
    I would encourage any and all property owners who have vacant buildings or spaces in those buildings, to get them reoccupied and continue to keep them occupied.
    Rockland has over come many challenges since becoming a City on June 3, 1854. I believe as the economy evolves that the City, with proper leadership will continue to keep pace and prosper.     
    What are Rockland's greatest problems to address?
    Taxes, as the Cities population continues to decline so does the school population. This is the number one item I have heard from the voters, it is difficult to pay these increases when their incomes don't begin to keep pace with the normal everyday inflation. The school budget continues to increase much faster than inflation, at the same time the City's budget has for several years  maintained or has had minimal increases. The City must work to reduce the school budget either by adjustments to the school funding formula or by other means to increase local taxes dollars.
    Infrastructure has suffered due to cuts. I would encourage a pay as we go funding in the budget.
    I have not heard the latest figures on capping the landfill, or when that will happen. The cost could have devastating effects on the City's budget.
    How would you like to see Camden Street (by Ocean State Job Lots and Home Depot) develop, or redevelop? Five years ago, there was much conversation, and plans, to address that stretch. Have you looked at the plans?
    I have not had the opportunity to review the plans to this point. The properties on Camden Street are currently occupied.
    At this time I believe there is no need to remove these businesses and go in a different direction. The existing store fronts are working hard to provide products and services for the area.
    There is some vacant property on the waterfront next to the car wash. I would be cautious in development of this area without extensive land testing, blue marine clay is very unstable to build on and can be prone to slides when the salt content is removed by rain water runoff.
    What is your vision for Rockland Harbor and where do cruise ships fit into that vision?
    Plans for the Harbor, cruise ships: I would encourage development of the waterfront as long as it doesn't disrupt existing businesses. Rather it is expansion or new development.
    I have always been told Rockland's harbor is one of the deepest and most sheltered on the east coast. I believe we need to take advantage of this, as long as it doesn't disrupt other businesses including the lobster and fishing industries.
    Cruise ship: If the City decides to eliminate cruise ships it has compounding effects. The loss of tourism dollars, revenue dollars for the city (some $100,000 or more), the exposure of the community as passengers may return to the City by other means and invest financially. 
    How do you think the McLain School space could be best used?
    First I would like to know if the existing City buildings are not adequate? I understand placing all of the City services under one roof, but we also need to remember parking.
    There is limited parking spaces at the Lincoln and Summer Streets address before you to deal with snow. This would increase Public Services required snow removal or being contracted out, more spending.
    Do we have another business interested in the current City Hall?
    A lot of the land behind City hall across to Thomaston Street, I believe, is wet land.
    Another concern I would have is having private dwellings sandwiched between two Industrial Parks. Another and probably most important question, the amount of tax payers dollars that would be needed to renovate the McLain building vs the dollars raised by selling the City Hall property.
    I would rather see the McLain property added back to the tax base. I am open to other ideas for these properties as long as it benefits the tax payers. I o not believe the City should be in the rental business.
    Does Rockland need to adjust zoning to accommodate business growth, housing construction and industry expansion?
    Zoning, adjustments to accommodate business growth, housing and industry expansion: I do not support a "broad brush" approach on changing zones just for change, for the benefits of special interest groups. I don't believe the Council has been as transparent to the taxpayers as they need to be.
    The elected officials are supposed to be working in the best interest of the taxpayers. Reducing the setbacks, in approved as they are now, subdivisions for the benefits of a few, in my opinion, is not in the best interest of the neighborhood. Pen Bay acres was approved, as it now sits by the City, as well as other subdivisions through out the City.
    The Council in the past, has been against spot zoning and has tried to keep the neighboring property owners interest in mind.  I believe two like houses in a AA zone is worth more than one in a A zone. The property owner purchased their homes with the understanding of the restrictions and requirements in mind, and that is why they purchased in certain areas of the City.
    I believe in areas of the City where there are non-conforming lots should not be changed. The City approved those non-conforming lots as a package deal. If a property owner wants to develop a piece of property and some of the lots do not conform, there is an existing process for them to submit a sub-division to the City for approval. 
    Adjustments for business growth, housing and industry should be a case by case decision. I find it interesting that some are promoting there is not enough housing. There has never been more apartments, homes, assisted living and nursing home rooms in the City. The population is going down and some continue to promote their agenda that there is not enough housing while the population has gone down by nearly 2,000 citizens. 
    Should Rockland be more receptive to alternative housing proposals, such as emergency shelters and reentry programs?
    Alternative housing proposals such as emergency shelters and reentry programs. I believe having an open dialog from the very beginning would produce a less hostile attitude for such proposals.
    There are definitely areas in the City where reentry programs are better suited than other areas.
    Emergency shelters to me are different than a homeless shelter. Let me explain, to me an emergency shelter is a shelter that would open after a disaster, rather man made or created by nature.
    In the case of the Flanagan Recreational facility being used for an overflow shelter, I have several questions.
    Will the City incur any of the additional cost for those extended hours of operation; such as heating, lights,water, cleanup, setup, and any wear and tear of the the building? 
    Several years ago the Council was discussing selling the building to the YMCA, and having them run the recreational programs. If memory serves me right the building, much like the McDougal property must be used for children educational purposes, the Rec must be used for recreational programs.
    I would rather see the over flow Homeless shelter be in a different building. I believe there are several other properties in the City that would be better suited and better serve as a more permanent facility.
    What is the importance of local government, and how do you see yourself, as a city councilor, in it?
    Local government's responsibility is to ensure the day to day operations, safety, enact local ordinances, codes, code enforcement, ensure there are funds to adequately protect the public from crime.
    Further to provide adequate funding for the removal of sewerage, garbage, protection and prevention of fires and other hazards to life, and to provide safe roads throughout the year. Provide funding to conduct elections, City Hall personnel to provide information, adequate welfare funds for those in need. We must also provide the needed equipment and other resources to allow all of the City employees to perform their responsibilities efficiently and safely.
    Provide all of above stated and any additional services that could arise in a financially sound manner, while keeping the taxpayers and citizens ability to pay a priority. 
    I see myself in a roll that continues to provide those budget funds needed, while keeping all taxpayers abilities to pay in mind. I believe the Council needs to work closely with the Chamber as well as Rockland Main Street to promote this very special City. 
    How do you see Rockland fitting into the greater regional economy and culture, and how would you like develop that?
    Rockland fitting into the greater regional economy and culture. Rockland is the County seat, and with that bears the responsibility to compliment other Municipalities around us.
    We are the working community and the out lying areas have provided the sleeping areas for our businesses.
    The traffic on routes 1 and 17 in the am and pm proves this point. Rockland has changed over the years , more art galleries and has  become a Coast Guard Community to mention a couple of examples. 
    Where are your favorite places to spend time in the Rockland community? 
    Favorite places to visit and spend time in Rockland. My wife and I frequently visit  main street businesses and restaurants. We spend time walking on Main Street, as well.
    One of our favorite things to do during the summer is to drive along the water front to see what may be going on. Cruise ships, festivals, and other events that occur in the City. During special holidays, the decorations in down town, trap tree along with Santa, along with art displays in the windows. We frequently will buy a lunch and sit at one of the parking areas to watch the vessels coming and going in the harbor. Rather it be our Windjammer fleet, lobster boats, or the private boats who visit our harbor including cruise ships. My wife, Amos (our lab), and I really enjoy watching the coming and going along the water front.
    Free space! Anything else you'd like to say to the voters that we haven’t considered?
    Several important issues that need to addressed going forward include but is not limited to, are as follows:
    Drugs, addiction, and rehabilitation, closing the landfill, road repair and an ongoing maintenance program, sewer /storm water upgrades and continued maintenance, continued maintenance to the treatment plant,  and decisions need to be made on City owned properties. I would like to see passenger rail service with new updated equipment.   
    I would like the chance to serve as one of your new Councilors. In order for that to happen voters need to get out and vote or vote by absentee ballot. Ballots are now available by mail or at City hall. I would like to let everyone know why I missed the candidates forum. I was admitted to PBMC, where I spent 5 days. 
    I can ensure I do not get sick very often. It really upset me that I could not attend the the forum. I will put the time in, and will look at this commitment as a full time job. I take this responsibility very seriously, just like I did when I was on the School Board. I will always do my best to keep the majority  best interest. I have started reviewing policies, ordinances, and attending meetings. Once again I encourage everyone to get out and vote.         
    Donald Robishaw Jr.  donrobishaw@gmail.com