Gouldsboro scraps voting requirements petition

Posted May 05, 2009, at 7:57 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:09 p.m.

GOULDSBORO, Maine — Despite a citizens petition that is aimed at changing the requirements for voter approvals at special town meetings, local voters will not get the chance to weigh in on the proposal at next month’s annual town meeting.

The petition, circulated by resident Bob Johnston and others, proposed requiring a two-thirds majority vote by secret ballot for approval at all special town meetings. Johnston has said that because special town meetings are open sessions that require only a majority vote by those who attend, they make it too easy to adopt measures that may not be supported by a majority of voters in town. He cited a special town meeting vote last August in which a new municipal solid waste ordinance was adopted by a 40-39 vote, as an example.

Gouldsboro selectmen considered the petition last week but decided against approving it for inclusion on the warrant for the coming regular annual town meeting.

According to town office staff, selectmen were advised to reject the proposal because of legal concerns.

“That one they rejected based on an opinion from Maine Municipal Association,” Town Manager Eve Wilkinson said Tuesday.

According to town office staff, the opinion states that state law prohibits the adoption of such voting requirements that are not spelled out in a municipal charter. State law also does not allow the results of any town meeting vote to be the basis for approval requirements at any other separate town meeting, the opinion indicated.

Johnston said Tuesday that he disagrees with the MMA opinion and said the selectmen were being “selective” in following the legal opinions they received from MMA.

Selectmen received a second petition last week requesting a revote on the municipal solid waste ordinance, but on Monday they voted 5-0 to reject the request. Instead, they decided to let voters revisit the issue of trash bag fees, which they said was the only part of the ordinance to which people seemed to be objecting. The new ordinance charges residents $1.50 for each bag or barrel of trash collected by the town.

Johnston said MMA also had advised selectmen to let voters reconsider the entire solid waste ordinance, as was requested in the petition.

As for adopting new special town meeting voting approval requirements, Johnston said he would not continue trying to get the issue included on next month’s regular town meeting warrant.

“I’m tired and worn out,” he said.

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