By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
This coming Tuesday, June 10, is Primary Election Day. Hopefully, Maine residents will flock to the polls to fulfill their number-one duty at American citizens: voting.
This is your turn to show your pleasure or displeasure with those running our state and country. Every vote counts, even if you’re on the losing end. Close votes tend to put the winning party on notice that their position could be overturned or rejected in the next election.
This Tuesday, the citizens of Lewiston-Auburn will be asked to elect three charter commissioners from each city. These people will be tasked with creating a charter incorporating Lewiston and Auburn into one city. Once the members have been selected, a binding vote will occur this November, in which the citizens of Lewiston-Auburn will decide whether to merge the cities into one. A rejection in November by voters of either city kills the proposal.
Over the years a great deal of city council time has been devoted to debating the issue of merging both cities. Any decisions were usually confined to small fiscal issues, such as issues that led to joint purchases in order to lower expenses. Now the public is being asked to weigh in on this issue.
It will be you, Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, not local politicians, who will decide whether the cities will consolidate or not.
The first phase in this process is to pick members of the charter commission. These members will create a charter that will subsequently be presented to the public for approval. This commission should be comprised of individuals that believe in and want this unification to come to fruition.
In order to do this, I believe you must have members whose knowledge and experience will form the cornerstone of the group.
There are two men whose election to the commission will fulfill this need. Lucien Gosselin of Lewiston and Charles “Chip” Morrison of Auburn have years of knowledge and experience in municipal government. One was city manager of Lewiston, the other was city manager of Auburn. They will be beneficial to helping other members deal with and understand the complexities of municipal government.
Their leadership will keep everyone focused on the task at hand, and hopefully they will come up with a charter palatable to all.
Let us not get sidetracked and worked up over straw-men issues. There is no need to change the name of our cities. We are currently known as Lewiston-Auburn, L-A and the Twin Cities. Like Portland, we can certainly continue having two high schools. The difficulty in unification lies in merging departments and various union contracts.
Contrary to the opinion of a few local young Turks, Lucien Gosselin and Chip Morrison possess the ability to deal effectively with these problems.
Lastly, a special thanks and kudos go out to Lewiston School Superintendent Bill Webster and School Committee Chair James Handy for their due diligence in uncovering what appears to be fraudulent documentation presented by several individuals attempting to open a charter school in Lewiston.
The establishment of this school would have cost Lewiston taxpayers millions of dollars. Because of their investigatory work, the State Board of Education rejected the petition. I have had the case reviewed by the Lewiston Police Department and it is now in the hands of the Criminal Division of the Maine State Attorney General’s Office, awaiting prosecution.