On June 8, voters in Rockport will choose two of four candidates to serve a three-year term on the Rockport Select Board. Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the town and region. Here, Candidate John Strand discusses his position on various topics
Please provide a biography of yourself and explain why you decided to seek a seat on the Select Board?
I grew up in Washington and Colorado, earning my B.A. at the University of Colorado. After college, I taught English to young professionals in South Korea, before serving as a U.S. Navy officer during the Global War on Terror.
My service time included a year-long deployment to the Middle East. After leaving the Navy. I earned my master’s at the University of Wisconsin and spent several years as an IT project manager in California and Arizona.
In 2018, I moved to Rockport with the love of my life, Allison, to lay down roots. Having lived in towns and cities of all sizes throughout the U.S. and the world, we recognized Rockport as a truly special, community-minded place where we finally feel at home.
I am running because I love Rockport. I have the time, skills, and genuine passion for this community to serve on the Select Board. I believe the fresh perspective I bring will be beneficial. I will serve with an open mind and a commitment to listening to all perspectives. I will be transparent, representing all the people and their rights without an eye towards special interest. I will work for the people of Rockport to deliver solutions that ensure the best quality of life for the citizens of this special town.
What are the three most pressing issues facing Rockport today, and how would you like to see them resolved?
(First and foremost, I am here to listen and exercise complete transparency. The will of the people of Rockport always supersedes any opinion I may have on an issue.)
1. Budget discipline and transparency: A long-term plan is necessary so that the board does not simply react, but calculates the future burden on the taxpayer. Property taxes and fees have already risen significantly over the past decade. It is imperative that every cent of tax money spent on the town be accounted for and transparent to the voters.
Raising taxes to accommodate projects should not be reactionary, but an action undertaken only after careful thought that takes into account the long-term interest of the entire town and not just special interest. But there is more than just the bottom line to consider. Poaching money from infrastructure maintenance budgets to support other projects is already taking its toll on roads and common areas. Ensuring proper maintenance of roads and public land is one of the fundamental purposes of town government and cannot be compromised.
2. Private property rights: I stand against unnecessary government intrusion on private property rights. Pricing working folks out of the housing market is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, but private property rights are fundamental.
Government intrusion is, at times, necessary to ensure personal and community safety (e.g. suspected criminal activity), but it should never be so intrusive as to regulate the number of days a person can rent a room. The solution to any ancillary effects that short-term rentals are creating needs to be handled outside of such restrictions. (Incidentally, the addition of a small hotel will go a ways towards alleviating demand for short-term rentals.)
3. Wastewater Management: Routing wastewater through Camden is too costly. Devising a long-term solution, which may include the addition of a wastewater facility in Rockport, is necessary.
Although this may be expensive in the short-term, if, over time, it will actually save taxpayers money and ease the hit on the pocketbooks of working families, it may be the best solution. If, on the other hand, it is more inexpensive to route all wastewater through Rockland, that solution should be considered.
How will you protect the Rockport taxpayer as you shape and govern a municipal budget, and juggle various interests that request municipal funding throughout the year?
I have no special interest. Although I am open to all sensible solutions, as long as the people of Rockport are behind them, keeping taxes (and other fees) at their status quo, or possibly reducing them, will be important.
Property tax rates affect working families much more than others. Ensuring tax money is spent in ways that maximize the benefit to all Rockport citizens (or the vast majority) is part of my core philosophy.
It is also important that the town plan many years in advance so that costs are appropriately weighed and the best deal for all the people of Rockport is discovered. Funding decisions should only happen at regular town meetings, not special ones that don’t attract the same attention from voters. Budget priorities should always be public health and safety services (e.g. fire, police, etc) and maintenance of public infrastructure (e.g. roads, bike paths, etc.).
These budgets should not be poached to fund special projects, but garner a larger share of the budget than they already do.
Rockport's economy has roots in agriculture, fishing, artisanship, boatyards, the arts, education and health care. How will you protect and encourage those legacy sectors?
All of them are important contributors to the exceptional quality of life Rockport offers, and ensuring their survival is fundamental.
As a member of the Select Board, I will literally listen and serve. I see my purpose as not driving agenda items forward but listening to the challenges and needs of those in the legacy sectors and working with others to ensure that they thrive. Having only lived here for three years,
I do not presume to fully understand the challenges and opportunities that each of these sectors faces, but I am committed to learning more without bias and entertaining well-supported ideas for addressing them. Each of these sectors has an important role to play in Rockport's future.
How do you see Rockport positioned in the larger regional Midcoast economy?
Rockport's portion of the Midcoast economy is small, but thriving. Ensuring it remains diversified and sustainable is fundamental and will be a top priority. Our location between the larger communities of Rockland and Camden, both of which enjoy (among other things) thriving tourist-based economies, is beneficial, as is the tremendous natural beauty that draws tourists and residents alike.
Preserving Rockport's distinct character and charm is crucial for ensuring it remains a vital place to stop, stay, and live. Rockport's diversified economy is another strength. With more people choosing to make Rockport their primary year-round residence, there may be opportunities to grow existing sectors or for new ones to be created.
Overall, Rockport is nestled in a very special area with unique year-round benefits and community-minded individuals. These factors bode well for its economy.
What is your vision for the RES property?
As with other issues, I will listen to all ideas and support those that benefit the vast majority of Rockport’s citizens. The RES is currently used for parking, soccer games and as a drive-in movie theater. Turning it into a park (funded by donations) with soccer fields and other recreational areas is an option.
A park with a big parking lot would be ideal. Many non-village residents already park their cars at the RES. Since there is a dearth of parking in the village itself, ensuring a large parking area is available adjacent to it, is important.
What are your thoughts on the wastewater disposal issue and the idea of building Rockport’s own facility, as opposed to sending wastewater to Camden and Rockland?
Routing wastewater through Camden is too costly. Devising a long-term solution that may include the addition of a wastewater facility in Rockport is necessary. Although this may be expensive in the short-term, if it will actually save taxpayers money over time and ease the hit on the pocketbooks of working families, it may be the best solution. If, on the other hand, it is more inexpensive to route all wastewater through Rockland, that solution should be considered.
The Camden-Rockport Pathways Committee has proposed a long-term plan for safer and healthier pedestrian and bicyclist provisions. Have you read that plan and do you support it?
I have read the plan and support funding for maintenance and improvement of infrastructure (to include sidewalks and bike paths). Creating new pathways should not come at the expense of maintenance to existing roads, sidewalks, and bike paths. Moreover, priorities should be more closely aligned to the will of the voters.
To date, much of the funding for new bike paths has come from grants. This is ideal, as it directly benefits citizens of the town without increasing taxes/fees. Obtaining more grants and donations for this purpose is a worthy goal that I fully support. If budget resources are needed in the future to construct new paths, they should be along routes that benefit the most citizens.
Only if there is broad majority support for these initiatives, with transparency about the future tax burden, should taxes be increased to support new projects.
How best should all Rockport citizens access high-speed, broadband internet, and what is your position on Article 26 of the Rockport Town Meeting Warrant?
As with all things, the impact on working families is my number one concern. Access to high-speed internet is a great thing that can offer substantial benefits to individuals and businesses, but not at any cost. Having the town of Rockport directly manage telecommunications utilities would lead to cost increases that will likely be significant.
Ideally, installation of a fiberoptic network would be handled at the state level. If a grassroots effort to handle this at the town level gains the support of the vast majority of Rockport citizens, I will, first and foremost, advocate for solutions that don’t negatively impact the taxpayer.
Should the town build a parking lot at the head of the harbor near the Goose River Bridge, as currently proposed?
This is not Boston. Parking is a problem, but pay spots (presumably enforced) will change the nature and feel of the town in undesirable ways. More options need to be considered.
Turning the RES into a park with a substantial parking lot (through donations) would alleviate the problem somewhat. This may also be an opportunity for enterprising citizens to provide shuttle services into the village.
Where is your favorite place in Rockport?
A little spot off Ledgewood, where I walk regularly and watch the trees; plus, most any place with a view of the harbor in the evening and happy walkers passing by.
Free space! Please add additional thoughts as you see fit.
I am committed to transparency in decision-making and budget discipline while preserving the unique character of Rockport. I am very eager to listen to the concerns of Rockport's citizens and support decisions that benefit the community as a whole. I have no special interest.
I will take great care to ensure the town spends money wisely. I will further ensure the financial burden of the taxpayer is not onerous, but sufficient to maintain the services and infrastructure that make Rockport a wonderful place to call home.