It's been three years since I was elected to serve on the Camden Select Board and on June 11 I will be on the ballot for re-election for another three year term.
Even though there is no one running against me in this election I thought it only fair to discuss these past three years and what I look forward to in the next three.
It would have been easy to join the board and do a fine job of management for the town.
As situations came up, make some informed and reasonable decisions and feel good about it. Instead I wanted to look forward and help lead the town into the future.
It's a bit more challenging to do that.
Change comes hard.
In the past three years tough decisions had to be made which have brought substantial changes to Camden. We have tremendous leadership now in Audra Caler-Bell, our town manager. The team she's put together - which includes exceptional long term employees and wonderful new hires - gives us, in my view, an extraordinary town staff.
One of my priorities was to work on energy conservation and bring Camden to the forefront in the battle against climate change.
I was the first Select Board champion for our first Camden solar farm, located at Sagamore Farms, and now there's a combined effort from the town energy committee (who initiated the idea for the first solar array), Jeremy Martin, our town planner, Audra Caler-Bell and the entire Select Board, to expand Camden's ability to harness the power of the sun and replace our fossil fuel based energy consumption.
In addition, Camden was the first town in Maine to become a member of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, an international group that is helping cities and towns worldwide combat climate change.
Here is the GCoM's goal in their own words:
"The cities and partners of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy share a long-term vision of supporting voluntary action to combat climate change. Together, we’re working towards a resilient and low-emission society."
Other objectives I've championed in the past three years include another priority by the town's dedicated Energy committee, replacing our inefficient and expensive street lights with town owned LED lighting which in addition to reducing our energy use will help restore dark skies to Camden.
With our town's strong Camden Conservation Commission I've encouraged the elimination of plastic bags and 'styrofoam' / polystyrene containers in our town.
The Camden Conservation Commission has also been aggressively working to reduce pollution in the harbor and will be at it again this summer working with the boats that reside in and visit our harbor.
I'm delighted with the new show series, "Maine Made Music" & "The Blue Cafe", at the Camden Opera, as management continues to develop wide ranging programs that serve all the residents of Camden.
One of the most difficult challenges we face is how to deal with our "dark streets". The Select Board has received a lot of communication from citizens telling us that often they are the only full time residents on their street - all the other houses have been purchased by owners that only come to visit at select times during the year and others that have been purchased to be full time "AirBnB" type short term rentals.
Empty houses and short term rentals that see mostly summer visitors can have a serious impact on the year round livability of our town. With fewer winter residents we risk losing our year round businesses and long term that will impact the desire for summer visitors to stay here.
Having empty homes off the sales market and off the long term rental market also cause a housing shortage that is not easily solved.
One way to work on this is for Camden to have great schools - and it's why I have been such a strong supporter of the new middle school. Camden is known for it's wonderful school system and education standards and that attracts people as full time residents that bring families and an entrepreneurial spirit to Camden. That creates jobs.
But we need housing for those entrepreneurs and employees.
As far as legislation goes, I try to think of positive instead of negative.
Instead of saying "No - you can't do that", I think it's better to say "Yes, you can do that, but here's a better idea."
Regarding our housing shortage and our "dark streets", I've been wondering if we could craft legislation that rewards owners of rental homes for renting long term instead of short term. Lets make it worth their while to help solve our housing crisis.
At this point it's a new idea; let's kick it around and see what we come up with.
Lastly, how can you help?
One person can make a difference.
Thanks to Matt Brown we have our new town event coming up this June that hopefully will become the yearly bookend to the hugely successful Camden International Film Festival that attracts people from all over the world to Camden in the fall.
It's "Jazz In June", a three day jazz festival over Father's Day weekend, June 14, 15 & 16, that has something for everyone (a great gift idea for dad). There are events at the Opera House main stage, at the Blue Cafe, a Friday night dance party at the Camden Snow Bowl, an afternoon concert on the hill at the Snowbowl, parties at 40 Paper and 16 Bayview and a show at the library amphitheater.
It will be an amazing weekend.
You can get individual tickets or an all access pass and learn all about the festival atwww.jazzinjunecamdenme.com or at the Facebook page -https://www.facebook.com/JazzFestivalMaine
Come one, come all - invite your friends.
Another example of Camden moving forward.
Thanks for your support.
Marc Ratner is a Camden Select Board member