A Message From MMA: Reaching Out To Maine’s New Leader

(from Maine Townsman, November 2010)
by Christopher Lockwood, Executive Director

As I put the finishing touches on this column, on the day after the election, it just became official that Paul LePage will be our next governor. Congratulations, Mayor LePage. We want to assure our members and the public that the Maine Municipal Association is committed to forging a constructive working relationship with the State’s next chief executive.

We began this quest early in 2010 with the publication of our “2010 Municipal Priorities Paper” which was sent as an open letter to each of the announced gubernatorial candidates. This effort was followed up with informal meetings with our advocacy staff, more formal videotaped interviews in July with the MMA Executive Committee and a gubernatorial candidates’ forum on Oct. 13 during the MMA annual convention.

We are hopeful our newly elected Governor will recognize and respect the important role and value of municipal governments in our intergovernmental system. Municipalities are not a special interest. Rather, elected municipal officials represent their citizens and local businesses, the same ones that officials at the state and federal levels represent.

Municipal government is closest to the people, and all of the candidates for Governor appeared to recognize that Maine’s towns and cities can be both nimble and resourceful in finding efficient and effective ways to deliver needed services.

In addition, the essential frugality of Maine’s local governments has been borne out by recent studies, such as the 2006 Brookings Report (Charting Maine’s Future) and the recently released Reinventing Maine Government report in which municipal expenditures in Maine compared very favorably to municipal spending at national averages or among Maine’s rural “peer” states.

The Maine Municipal Association stands ready to work with our next Governor in addressing the many challenging issues facing the citizens and businesses of Maine. We are open to any and all suggestions regarding ways in which a constructive working relationship, built on mutual respect and trust, might be forged. Here are a few thoughts for consideration:

• Regular meetings with the MMA Executive Committee.

• Seeking municipal input at the front end of addressing key budget and policy issues.

• Designating a municipal liaison within the Governor’s office and in key state agencies, such as Transportation, Environmental Protection and Education.

• Meeting informally with MMA’s 70 member Legislative Policy Committee from time to time to discuss issues and receive input.

• Conducting listening sessions or cabinet meetings in towns/cities in different areas of the state.

• Seeking individuals with strong municipal experience for positions within the Administration.

We offer our congratulations and commitment to work in good faith as a new Administration and Legislature take office.