Nov. 5, 2019 Rockland City ballot

On the issues: Rockland City Council Candidate Nathan Davis

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 grew up in New Hampshire, and I’ve also lived in Massachusetts, California, Wisconsin, and of course, Maine.

    I now live with my wife on Fulton Street in Rockland. I studied mathematics and music in college and graduate school. After graduating, like many mathematically-inclined people, I spent some time working in finance, which led to a career in software development.

    I co-founded and co-manage Steel House, a collaborative workspace in Rockland that was recognized by the World Bank in 2017 as one of 13 "creative community spaces" globally that are "transforming cities into innovation hubs.”

    What are Rockland's greatest strengths, and how do you hope to maintain them?
    I think that our greatest strength is our diversity of people and activity, as well as the fact that all these people and all this activity somehow manage to coexist in a relatively small geographical area.

    It is remarkable and wonderful to me that a community of our size can host robust industry and manufacturing, a working waterfront, cultural institutions of great accomplishment, a thriving culinary scene, and much more, and that no one interest or activity crowds out the others.

    There is no magic solution to maintaining this balance, only a slow and careful process of mediating interests and goals so that Rockland remains accessible to all.

    What are Rockland's greatest problems to address?
    The greatest problem in general is how to retain the diversity I mention above. A specific aspect of that problem is how to ensure that housing remains accessible to young people and people of low and moderate incomes.

    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 looked at the plans, and I think they are a great piece of work that incorporates much current thought in planning and urban design, including walkable and human-friendly streets and multimodal transportation.

    This can’t happen all at once, but as we explore revising our zoning laws, we can do so with an aim towards realizing these goals in the long term.

    What is your vision for Rockland Harbor and where do cruise ships fit into that vision?
    I don’t have a specific vision for either Rockland Harbor or Rockland in general, and I wouldn’t presume that any vision I might have is shared by the community. But I would prioritize public access and environmental protection.

    The Harbor is a public good, and it should remain such. I honestly don’t have strong feelings on cruise ships, which I realize may frustrate people on both sides of that issue.

    One approach that may be worth exploring is the creation of performance standards for any cruise lines that wish to use our facilities: that is, we could require that any such companies abide by standards for environmental protection, treatment of workers, responsible tourism, etc. I think that that approach might balance concerns over some of the bad behavior associated with the cruise industry with the desire to present a welcoming and open face to the world.

    How do you think the McLain School space could be best used?
    I don’t know much about the physical condition of the building, and so I hesitate to make a specific recommendation since so much would depend on the costs of renovation and maintenance. But I do cautiously support using the building for housing, especially mixed-income or mixed-age housing. 

    Does Rockland need to adjust zoning to accommodate business growth, housing construction and industry expansion?
    In general, yes, with appropriate care taken not to degrade existing residential neighborhoods.

    Neighborhoods and cities change all the time, and I don’t think that we should try to avoid change, but we can try to mitigate potential adverse impacts. In addition, zoning should be revised generally in accordance with the City’s Comprehensive Plan, a new version of which is being drafted.

    Should Rockland be more receptive to alternative housing proposals, such as emergency shelters and reentry programs?
    I actually think that Rockland has been fairly receptive to these proposals overall. Yes, there is sometimes controversy around them, but I don’t recall any such proposal being blocked.

    What is the importance of local government, and how do you see yourself, as a city councilor, in it?
    It is often observed (correctly) that local government has a more immediate impact on most people’s lives than higher levels of government. Anything it does has the potential to create immediate benefit or hardship. For that reason, it should move slowly, deliberately, and inclusively.

    I don’t mean that it should attempt to avoid change, even dramatic or radical change, but that it should examine such change carefully and from a range of perspectives. I don’t think it is the job of City Council to simply attempt to discern the “will of the people” and then act on it. Rather, I think it is the job of City Council to gather information, listen, deliberate, and then exercise judgment to the best of its ability.

    How do you see Rockland fitting into the greater regional economy and culture, and how would you like develop that?
    Rockland is clearly a regional hub of economy and culture, and I expect and hope that this will continue to be the case.

    There is quite a bit of room for regional cooperation that we have not yet seriously explored, for example in the areas of energy, transportation, and education. I hope that we can investigate such opportunities and take advantage of them when appropriate.

    Where are your favorite places to spend time in the Rockland community? 
    Here are some of them, in no particular order: The Apprenticeshop, Cafe Miranda, the Bog, West Meadow Road, the Harbor Trail

    Free space! Anything else you'd like to say to the voters that we haven’t considered?
    I love Rockland and if elected would feel honored to serve its people as a member of City Council. If not elected, I would still feel honored to serve it any way I can.