(from Maine Townsman, January 2000)
by Lee Young, MMA President; Mayor, Auburn
As the new president of the MMA, I want to wish you all a healthy and happy new year and to thank you for the opportunity to serve as your president. This year of 2000 is a year of opportunity. The Maine Municipal Association is a strong and healthy organization and because of that there is an opportunity for those of us in current leadership roles to take the time to explore some new challenges to further enhance the value of the MMA.
The first new and innovative program which was introduced at the MMA convention in early October is the Maine Academy for Municipal Leadership. The response to the creation of this Academy, established by a newly developed partnership with the Muskie School and the MMA, has been impressive. Thirty-one elected officials, city and town managers have chosen to take advantage of this educational opportunity for growth by enrolling in the academy. We, as an association, are reaching out to our constituency to educate and encourage involvement in local government. This academy will hopefully provide tools and knowledge to participants that will de-mystify the workings of government and encourage them to become a part of a vitally important piece of the fabric of our democracy.
The second initiative is the full development of the newly created position of Communications Director. The Maine Municipal Association is the backbone of local government. It provides Maine cities and towns with insurance, legal expertise and guidance and the opportunity to influence policy through participation on the Legislative Policy Committee and the Executive Committee's quarterly advisory meetings with Governor King. The citizens of Maine need to be more aware of the existence of the MMA and the value of the MMA to their communities and thus their individual lives. We are a resource and we need to be accessible and responsive. Our Communications Director will be developing and implementing a media plan which is consistent, cohesive and credible that will tell that MMA story.
A third initiative is an organizational study of the MMA which will take place this winter and spring. We are hiring a consultant to help MMA organize itself for the future. There have been internal changes made within the last few years in response to pressures and increased work loads as our society and working environment has become more complex. We have not stood back and looked at ourselves in a long time. Because of our solid base, we have a chance now to reflect on actions and structural changes that were made in response to crisis. Every organization periodically needs to stand back, look at itself and evaluate how best to structure themselves to move forward into the future.
A fourth initiative is to continue to be active in the policy making arena. The passage of the homestead exemption was a monumental step forward in the ongoing desire to relieve the property tax burden of our citizens. We need to continue to focus on that need. That means making policy decisions involving educational funding and insuring that business incentives continue to exist so that our communities' tax bases are not eroded. The MMA needs and wants your input. We have strength in our numbers and it's vital that we as cities and towns send clear messages to our legislators. We all are working toward making Maine the best that it can be. To do that, we need to embrace and create an environment that welcomes economic growth, that provides our children with the finest education and that allows our citizens to enjoy the fruits of their labor by curtailing the escalation of property taxes.
I look forward to working with you all to insure that these four initiatives are accomplished this year.