What's on the ballot: Presque Isle charter amendments

(Rothery Sullivan)
Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 3:01 PM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) - Four charter amendments will be on the ballot of the next Presque Isle municipal election, as decided on September 6, 2023, at the Presque Isle City Council meeting. Residents will vote on each amendment as individual ballot questions.

The first amendment proposed regards the nomination process to a seat on the council. Previously the City of Presque Isle required nominees to have 75 community signatures to run, with a maximum number of signatures being 150. The amendment suggested will be to lower the required number of signatures to 50, which is the same number required to run for state legislature.

The second proposed amendment will allow city councilors to attend and vote at meetings remotely. This would include telephone or video call meetings. Councilors are not allowed to vote by proxy, so the adjustment will allow councilors who cannot attend in person to still participate in decision-making. “I think this one, again, in light of our current technologies that this is appropriate and will allow for better participation in the process,” says Councilor Craig Green.

The third charter amendment is to change how the people come into the Warden and Warden Clerk positions. Currently, these are elected positions, and the amendment moves to make these positions appointed by the council. “We have had problems very similar to running for school board and council, it’s the same threshold for getting the number of signatures required to be on the ballot, and frankly it’s not a position most people are aware of or want to run for,” explains city manager Martin Puckett. Puckett recommends these be appointed positions to ensure individuals are familiar with election laws. During the public hearing, Jayne Farrin spoke in favor of changing these positions from elected to council appointment. “Those individuals are too important not to have informed and trained individuals,” Farrin explains.

The fourth amendment is to change the title of Council Chair and Deputy Council Chair to Mayor and Deputy Mayor. “Mayor is something that is definitely more familiar with people rather than a council chair,” Pucket explains. There was a council discussion on the matter, with arguments both for and against the charter change. “I got to look at the council as seven people councilors with one person kind of chairing seven equals, to set policy for the community. I think by changing it to ‘mayor’ it becomes more confusing with positions where someone is paid and kind of a level above those they are sitting next to,” says Councilor Mike Chasse.

Kevin Freeman, the former council chair, argued in favor of the change. “We are frequently asked to speak in front of other gatherings and events, and so when you remove yourself from the [meeting] setting you’re really acting more than just the chairman of a meeting and you’re representing the other six councilors that are voted on each year,” Freeman explains. “It resonates more with voters ... if you are the mayor of the town as opposed to the chairman of a meeting that meets once a month. It doesn’t really give any more entitlements, it’s just a change of title.”  Craig Green agreed with Freeman, stating the title change would be less confusing to new community members. “The one question I’ve had a lot is ‘who’s your mayor’? So I think people from other communities recognize that title.”

Presque Isle residents will be able to vote on these amendments on November 7, 2023.