On the issues: Lincolnville Select Board Candidate Jordan Barnett-Parker

Mon, 06/13/2022 - 7:00pm

    On June 14, voters in Lincolnville will elect one of two candidates competing for one three-year term on the Lincolnville Select Board. 

    Stephen Hand is running against incumbent Jordan Barnett-Parker for the seat.

    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 Jordan Barnett-Parker 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.

    Thirty years ago, my family moved here from Brooklyn, New York. We built Hole In The Wall Bagels in Rockland and ran it as a family for 23 years.

    I spent my high school years growing up in Lincolnville, and it was always one of my favorite places in the world.

    After high school, I moved to Austria and Germany to finish my training and education as a Master Goldsmith/Silversmith. When I returned to the States, I was a resident artist and lecturer at Dartmouth College.

    After years of traveling, it came time for me to decide where I wanted to put down roots, and it was a no brainer. I moved back to Lincolnville, where I started my own business creating and repairing jewelry as well as hand engraving firearms and knives.

    I married fellow Lincolnville resident Marissa Kelly, and we have been living here for 10 years. I was honored to have been elected about 18 months ago to fill the late David Barrows’ seat on the Select Board.

    There are projects underway that I would like to see through to the end before I move on from the select board. I would be honored if the community would allow me to serve one full term to address a few issues raised by the citizens of our amazing town.

    I am the Vice Chair of the Lincolnville Broadband Committee, Vice Chair of the EMS Review Committee, representing member of the MDIC, member of the Lincolnville Business Group, and former member of the Budget Committee.

    In my time on the Select Board I have also met with the offices of both our senators, as well as participated in state level workshops for the building of broadband internet infrastructure, planning, and funding.

    What are the three most pressing issues facing Lincolnville today, and how would you like to see them resolved?

    Property tax/budgeting, affordable housing, roads and lack of participation in local government.

    Inflation and the increase of real estate value has created a tremendous hardship for working class families not only in Lincolnville, but all over the country. The struggle to keep taxes low, while still maintaining and improving our municipal infrastructure has become more difficult than ever. We have been keeping property taxes artificially “low” and “even” with unsustainable methods.

    Over the past decade, we have cut many essential projects from the budget under the guise of saving money, only to pass the costs of those projects to the next year and the year after that, and so on.

    While these projects wait to be started, the cost of both labor and materials go up exponentially.  A real world example would be, if you noticed that your roof needed repairing but you put it off until next year to save the money. The next year comes around and you see the roof needs even more repair, but to keep some money in your bank account you postpone the project yet another year.

    In the third year, what was a simple patching job has turned into a full roof replacement, sub-roofing, sealer and shingles.

    In the end you pay a tremendous amount of money all at once. This is how we have been budgeting for a while now. We have been fortunate that the town has been the recipient of approximately $400,000 of Federal and State Covid funds (with $125,000 still to come). This has helped us to mitigate the cost of some of these overdue projects, but that money will not be around forever, and cannot be counted on moving forward.

    I would like to see the town start incrementally budgeting and saving for these known projects a little every year in an interest bearing account. This will avoid having huge expenses in any given fiscal year, because we will have saved for these projects (such as revaluation of town property $219,000) over the course of 10 years. 

    It is harder than ever to find a home to buy, or even a home, apartment, or room to rent in the Midoast area, especially in Lincolnville. It is becoming near impossible for working class families and individuals to find housing, and it is having not only a negative effect on the workers and families themselves, but for our business community.

    I am a member of the Lincolnville Business Group, and the number one concern I hear is there is no housing for workers, and that these businesses cannot find workers because there is no place for them to live.

    We have a vibrant business community, many in the service and hospitality industry that are struggling to survive with little to no help. I have been fighting for the last months to create an Affordable Housing Committee that will look into federal and state grants to assist in the creation of affordable housing, as well as how to ease the burden on working class families that are struggling with housing in our town. 

    We have some dirt roads in town that have had severe problems for decades now, and have deteriorated to the point where during multiple times of the year, they become impassible. This is not an inconvenience, it is dangerous.

    The roads become so bad that the mail cannot be delivered, cars become so stuck that tow trucks cannot come to free them for fear that they will also be trapped. The worst case scenario would be if emergency services are needed. What if someone’s house is on fire, and fire trucks are unable to get there? What if someone suffers a heart attack or medical situation, and ambulances are unable to safely pass on the road.

    These roads need to have their bases re-constructed and engineered so that they can withstand heavy rains and the multiple thawing that occur during the winter and spring. One of the worst roads is Calderwood Lane.

    While many of our townspeople are extremely passionate, we have a serious problem with a lack of public participation in the process of running our town. Many committees struggle with having enough members to have a quorum in order to hold meetings, and the volunteers who do show up are getting older and need the younger generations to step up and help .

    How will you protect the Lincolnville taxpayer as you shape and govern a municipal budget, and juggle various interests that request municipal funding throughout the year?

    Creating funds for major projects in interest bearing accounts that will become an annual and predictable cost in the budget.

    Instead of having one fiscal year with a $200,00 expense, we will put away $20,000 a year for 10 years. That money will accrue interest and grow, and there will be no single budget item that can cause the property tax to rise significantly in any one fiscal year.

    Taxes will never go down to the cost of what they were 10 or 20 years ago. Everything is more expensive and is getting more expensive.

    One way we can keep the property taxes from rising significantly is to put away money for these projects “little by little” so that the taxpayer does not have to pay for it all in one payment.

    I am also pushing for a study of our debt servicing, in order to see if it would make more sense in taking the payments that we make for bonds and investing them into an interest bearing account. How much would we save, how much would we earn, and whether or not it is more fiscally responsible to save that money yearly, rather than to take out a large bond for a project where we are paying interest, rather than receiving it.

    Every dollar that we earn interest on and put into the till is one less dollar out of tax payers’ pockets.

    Housing is at a premium for most middle class working families, and like most other places in the country, Lincolnville has few homes or land parcels left for families who want to put down roots in town. What should Lincolnville do to encourage alleviate housing pressures? Adjust zoning to encourage housing density? Allow accessory dwellings on residential lots? Encourage affordable housing? 

    When I was running for this seat last election, I stated that re-writing our town’s 16 year old comprehensive plan was one of my most important goals. I pushed hard for the re-instatement of our Comprehensive Plan Committee (that had been dissolved for 15 years) and I am proud to say that we have an extremely passionate and dedicated group of citizens going over it with a fine toothed comb.

    We noticed that on the 16-year-old Comp Plan one of the top items to be done within one year (back in 2006) was to establish an Affordable Housing Committee/Task Force. Establishing that committee is essential for examining, exploring and investigating exactly what the situation in our town is, as well as what tools we have at our disposal to help with this problem which is only getting worse.

    I have requested (for the third time) that the creation of this Task Force/Committee be put on the Select Board’s agenda, and it will be on the June 27  meeting at 6 p.m. in the Lincolnville town office for all of those wishing to learn more or give their very welcome insight.

    The May 25 municipal vote of 70 to 78 that defeated a measure for an oceanfront pier moratorium, indicates a split electorate. What do you think that vote represented, and what is your opinion on such a proposed referendum?

    Firstly it represented the process in which a town is operated and run by its citizens. It was inspiring to see the passion and involvement of people on each “side” of the issue. The more robust participation we have in the shaping and operation of our town, the better it will be as a place for us to run our businesses and raise our families.

    There were many valid issues brought up, such as the wording of the moratorium, and the unintended effects it could have, as well as hearing from a good sized constituency of residents about how they would like to see their town develop and grow into the future.

    I believe in a way it was serendipitous, as we are going through the process of writing our town’s comprehensive plan, where we will be examining ordinances, land use, and the way that we as residents would like to see our town change, or stay the same. People often say that there are “too many cooks in the kitchen.” I believe this is one kitchen that can’t have enough cooks in it.

    The more voices and input the better!

    Lincolnville’s population has increased slightly over the past decade, up 7 percent, to 2,312. Do you think the town has kept up with all that accompanies growth — traffic, increased focus on zoning, municipal planning and expenses, etc.?

    I have brought up the writing of the town’s comprehensive plan a few times during the answering of these questions, and I will refer to it once again. In the examining of the town’s needs and the wants of its residents, we will be able to answer these very questions.

    We have also been in touch with the Maine DOT about a possible sidewalk project in the center, which will allow easier and safer navigation of roads for students, children, and the rest of us who would like to be able to walk safely in the center of town, especially since the opening of the wonderful Lincolnville General Store Public House. I think we can always do better for our residents, and should actively be looking at fiscally responsible ways of upgrading and maintaining our municipal infrastructure.

    How would you like to see broadband expanded and managed in town?

    Responsibly and comprehensibly. This was my main issue when I ran for the Select Board, and we have made some fantastic strides.

    We have a very robust and knowledgeable Broadband Committee that is being assisted by Axiom, and are coming up with a comprehensive study of what infrastructure exists in the town, and what it would take to bring high speed fiber optic internet to EVERY home in Lincolnville. Unfortunately there is still roughly 60% of the town that does not have access to high speed internet, which is a huge disadvantage for businesses and students.

    Having access to affordable high speed internet has become a utility issue, much as electricity and phone service in the past. There are hundreds of millions of dollars being awarded by the federal and state government for this very issue, and we are fighting for a chance to gain access to some of those funds.

    Whether doing it as a municipality, or partnering with a local internet service provider, the key will be assessing our situation, our options, and gauging what the community has an appetite for. This is not a situation where the Select Board would make the decision on their own; it is a community decision and investment. 

    Do you think Select Board members should be limited with the number of terms they serve?

    I do, and I know that there are many in the community that feel this way, as well. This was an issue brought to me by a good number of people that wished to see it put to a town vote.

    As I always do when approached by residents, I got the issue on the Select Board’s agenda and it was discussed several times before the board decided 3-2 to put it before the voters in a non-binding question to gauge the town’s interest in such a proposal.

    This was done with the intention that if there was interest via voting that the issue should be left to the voters to decide in November, where there is historically a much larger turnout, especially since it is a mid-term and Gubernatorial election. As with all things, it should be the will of the voters that determine issues.

    I proposed a three term limit, which would be nine years, with three years before being able to run for the Select Board again. This is not a life time ban, you would be able to run after taking a break. Nine years, practically a decade, is a long time, and a good amount of time to get things done on the board. I would like to encourage more people to run for the Select Board, and I have found that vacancies create a space for new people to step up. I started participating in town government because I noticed that there were many open spots on the budget committee, so I signed up. That led to me serving on the Select Board as well as several other committees. 

    Does the town have enough public access spots to its ponds and oceanfront? If not, what is needed to provide more access to shorelines and the water? 

    A lot of the richness of Lincolnville lies in its natural resources. We have a newly acquired park that we are renovating on Route 1 which will provide yet another access point for our residents and others.

    There are several hiking trails and bodies of water that are accessible in town, and we have to make sure that we invest the time and money in maintaining these rare assets to keep them pristine, beautiful and accessible to all. I believe the town is doing all it can, and is always looking for ways to keep these resources accessible.

    I know that there is always discomfort in the spring leading into the summer regarding public parking at the beach, and that there is a perennial issue with cars being parked all day long, leaving no spaces for residents to enjoy access to the beach, and impeding customers who are trying to patronize our wonderful beach businesses. I would like to see a solution to this issue that involves input from our community.

    Where is your favorite place in Lincolnville?

    Ducktrap has always been one of the most special and beautiful places in the world to me. I don’t know how much of it is nostalgia, and how much is the actual uniqueness and beauty of that spot, but there is enough of both to make me feel as though I have just discovered it every time I go down there. 

    Free space! Please add additional thoughts as you see fit.

    I believe that being on the Select Board is all about representing the community, and acting as a conduit for their thoughts and wishes. I have made a great effort at making myself available to anyone at literally any time of the day. I receive calls, emails, and Facebook messages regularly, and sometimes after 9 p.m. at night. I listen, I empathize, and ultimately I take those issues and put them onto the next meeting’s agenda for public discussion. Listening is one of the most important aspects to this job, and it is one that I take seriously. Whether listening to the residents of the town, or the other members of the Select Board, I have spent the last 18 months respectfully listening and advocating. 

    Compromise is also a key part of having a functioning governing body. I have compromised on almost every issue that we discuss, and there has never been an issue in carrying out the business of the town. There are of course matters in which I have a different opinion than others on the board, but that is what leads to healthy discussion, a healthy democracy, and ultimately a healthy town. 

    I remember when I was running for this position 18 months ago; there was much talk about how one cannot approach the position with an “agenda” and how dangerous and risky it is to have someone with different opinions. I absolutely do have an agenda that I am unwilling to compromise on. That is the complete transparency of the process of running our town, and making it as easy as possible for ALL residents of Lincolnville to make their voice heard, and be a part of that process. I don’t care how “silly” or “ridiculous” an issue might seem to some, if it is brought to my attention by a concerned citizen and they want it to be discussed, I will bring it before the board and the public for discussion. There simply cannot be enough participation from the public in the decisions that dictate the growth and operation of our town. 

    I know that it is frustrating for some that our board meetings have gone from an average running time of 45 minutes, to two or more hours; however, this is not a race, and I would much rather sacrifice my time for the cause of running the town than trying to race through a meeting as fast as possible. People want to be heard, they want to be listened to, and they want their concerns to be addressed by those they have entrusted with such an important task, such as serving on the Select Board.

    I hope that the voters of Lincolnville will allow me to serve one more term on the Select Board. I will continue to listen, represent, and fight for all residents of Lincolnville, especially the working families struggling to survive in an ever changing and challenging world. It has absolutely been the honor of my lifetime to serve at the behest of my neighbors.