On June 8, voters in Rockport will choose two of three 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 Robert Duke 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?
My family moved here in 1957. I still and never will be a “true native”. I attended Rockport Elementary and Camden Rockport High School. My first real job was at the Camden IGA where I promoted through the system where I ended up as Store Manager. I moved on to Maritime Energy as their Operations Manager. After leaving there my wife Doreen and I purchased Floor Magic where we currently have two showrooms service Knox and Lincoln County. Doreen and I have two children; Gabrielle and Jonathan, who, with his wife Joanna have two children Will and Carter. I enjoy travel, boating, and golf.
What are the three most pressing issues facing Rockport today, and how would you like to see them resolved?
I don’t feel that Rockport has any real pressing issues that affect the majority of our citizenry. There has been talk of Rockport being one town and not these sections such as West Rockport, Rockville, Glen Cove, Simonton’s Corner, and the Village.
For many that live in say Rockville, they certainly state they live in Rockport but I think they like the identity of being from Rockville.
It appears to me that in recent years that the Harbor/Village is receiving most of the resources and/or attention. I want to see better representation of the whole town that would advocate improvements throughout the town. Clam Cove is polluted from runoff from two large commercial shopping centers in Rockland. I want to see the Town to work with the City of Rockland and Maine DEP to find a solution.
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?
Well, I currently serve on the town Budget Committee. I have served on the SelectBoard for 12 years, the Budget Committee for a couple of terms, then also served on the Zoning Board of Appeals and our Fire Department.
I can say that the taxpayer does not have a strong enough voice when it comes to town spending. In this past years review of the proposed budget only a minority of the Budget Committee spoke of any concern of cost increases which were originally in the 7% area.
Rockport leaders need to realize what a municipal government is responsible for services. Good roads, good fire and police protection, our library, harbor, and some decent recreation. Outside of that those costs should be raised privately.
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?
I’m sorry to say this but this appears to be a loaded question. I grew up in Rockport. All of these items have developed organically over my 60-plus years. The Town needs to focus on core municipal services and allow the “legacy sectors” stand on their own.
How do you see Rockport positioned in the larger regional Midcoast economy?
Rockport has all state highways intersect through it. Economically Rockport should allow for commercial development but carefully. Being a local business owner I see the value of Rockport’s geographical presence in the greater Midcoast Region. I don’t feel that the Town Leaders need to be involved in economic development. I have not seen any true economic development from municipally funded “economic development” departments, only municipally owned projects. Government does not need to “help” the economy. The market is healthy enough.
What is your vision for the RES property?
We lost our best use for this property. A great Library with ancillary uses for municipal records storage, voting place, senior activity center that was located closer to the center of the “whole of Rockport” not just the village.
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?
Rockport should connect to Rockland so that the Town has the option to negotiate with either neighboring town for favorable rates. Rockport should not build its own treatment plant.
The Camden-Rockport Pathways Committee has proposed a longterm plan for safer and healthier pedestrian and bicyclist provisions. Have you read that plan and do you support it?
I’ve read it. I don’t support it in total. I’m for adequate sidewalks to connect needed points within town where pedestrian traffic makes sense.
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?
I am opposed to voting on this issue until the broader citizenry could attend true public hearings properly moderated where all sides of this issue can be discussed. The last time this was discussed in public it was voted down. I personally do not favor municipally-owned Broadband service. There are several wireless options for high speed internet right now including Elon Musk’s High Speed Satellite Internet service. Citizens have options now. They just need to pay for it.
Should the town build a parking lot at the head of the harbor near the Goose River Bridge, as currently proposed?
No. There isn’t enough room. The folks that stay at the new Rockport Hotel will just park there instead of being “shuttled” to the old Hobokken School which will be a major inconvenience.
Where is your favorite place in Rockport?
Beauchamp Point/Megunticook Golf Club hands down
Free space! Please add additional thoughts as you see fit.
I want to see Rockporters (folks that grew up here) have a bigger voice in our government. Too many of us have become complacent or feel powerless to what is happening in town. They only want to complain about it. In the course of a three year term there are hundreds of votes that are made by a SelectBoard Member. Many of those votes are what I call “directional” whether they affect taxpayers economically or policies that affect the way we all live.
I am willing to come back to the Board to serve the whole town, to insure that the Town provides great municipal services, takes care of its assets like roads and buildings, and do it with as small an increase in our taxes as possible.