Candidates set for race
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BY KEITH EDWARDS
Staff Writer
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel 10/01/2009

AUGUSTA -- Incumbent City Councilor David Rollins and challenger Jarody, together, make up the only contested city race up for election in November.

The candidates for an at-large council seat both agree the economy and its impact on the city budget is the biggest challenge facing Augusta. Both say they're the candidate most capable of making tough, well-thought-out decisions.

"The most important issue facing us right now is the challenge of managing through the current economic cycle we find ourselves in," said Rollins, who is completing his first term on the council. "I will handle this in the same manner I have handled all issues before the council. I will continue to listen, discuss, research and apply critical thinking to help find solutions. We must practice fiscal restraint at this critical time."

Jarody, who uses only one name, agrees the city's budget outlook is not good.

"The city has tightened its belt but I believe, next year, it will have to tighten it more," Jarody said. "A lot of rough and hard decisions will have to be made. I'm willing to make the tough decisions that no one else seems to want to make. I'm the type of guy who'll try to solve a problem four different ways before I give up on it."

They differ in their views of two state referendum questions, Question 2, which would reduce excise taxes on vehicles less than six years old, and Question 4, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR II, which would set spending limits on state and local governments.

Jarody said he has already voted, absentee, in favor of both questions, despite his own concerns that the proposals probably aren't the best options.

He said change is needed at the state and federal level but said legislators haven't done the work.

"We can't really change it at the top, the legislature can't get that done, so the grassroots -- the people -- is all we've got left," Jarody said of his support for Questions 2 and 4. "But I do believe these two initiatives might come back to bite us."

Rollins said both questions would hurt, not help, local taxpayers.

"TABOR II and the excise tax referendums, if passed, will shift a tax burden onto all cities and towns in Maine which, in my opinion, will create an economic crisis," Rollins said. "I believe if these referendums pass we will be faced with loses of necessary jobs and a higher than normal property tax increase. Life as we knew it has changed. If we pass these initiatives the change will be more drastic.

"If this occurs cuts will have to be made. There is no fat to trim, we're going to have to cut to the bone. And that will hurt."

Both candidates said the city should work to attract more businesses to its downtown area.

Jarody said revitalizing downtown will be difficult, expressing doubts that much can be done but still believing it is important.

Rollins said the city has created a tax increment financing, or TIF, district to capture tax dollars from new development which allows the city to make infrastructure improvements downtown. He said he will work with the mayor to help establish more housing in the upper stories which will attract people, perhaps University of Maine at Augusta students, to the live in town.

Jarody said he was motivated to run for council by the last budget process, and sees running for council as a way to be heard.

"I'm running because I know my voice really would matter if I was on the council," Jarody said. "I'm not one to sit around and complain about things without working on a solution. I've watched a lot of my friends and family move out of Augusta, and out of state, for areas with more opportunities. But I can't just give up.

At least I can say I threw myself at the problem. I'm hoping, 10 years down the line, I'll be able to see the results of all my efforts."

Rollins said he enjoyed his first term in office and would love to continue to represent the citizens of Augusta.

"I believe they believe in me, and they can be assured I believe in them," Rollins said of citizens. "I have represented them to the best of my ability, and have given my best thinking and effort. We have made some very positive changes in this city under the current leadership, I want to be part of the continuation of positive change."

All other local elections are uncontested.

Mayor Roger Katz is unopposed in his bid to remain mayor.

Darek Grant is the only candidate for the Ward 2 council seat currently held by Donna Doore, who is not seeking re-election. Grant is a current member of the Board of Education.

Betty Jo Libby is the only candidate for the Ward 3 Board of Education seat being vacated by Jane Dennison.

The at-large Board of Education seats of Grant and Richard Barnes are both up for election, but only one candidate, Nancy Bernier, filed papers seeking either of the seats. However, Dennison has since officially declared herself to be a write-in candidate for the at-large position, according to City Clerk Barbara Wardwell.

Wardwell said write-in candidates must declare their candidacy at Augusta City Center at least five days before the election.

All voting will be consolidated at the Augusta Civic Center in November's elections.

Keith Edwards -- 621-5647

kedwards@centralmaine.com

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