ROCKLAND, Maine — Frank Isganitis of Rockland said he had a personal stake in wanting the City Council to vote Monday night for a resolution supporting marriage equality.
“I’m gay. I’m a Republican and was raised Catholic,” Isganitis told councilors and a relatively large audience during the longer-than-normal public comments portion of the council meeting. “You have an opportunity today to state publicly that you support equality and privilege to all.”
Isganitis was one of several residents who spoke out passionately in favor of the nonbinding resolution.
In the end, the council voted down the resolution 4-1.
The resolution’s sponsor, Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson, voted for it.
“I don’t feel I was elected to decide these social orders,” said Councilor Eric Hebert.
Councilor Brian Harden said he was “glad to see the state of Maine take a progressive stand in this area,” but nonetheless planned to vote against the resolution.
“It’s coming back to us as a people’s referendum,” Harden said.
After the meeting, Beth Troester of Rockland, who spoke against the resolution, said she was pleased with the outcome of the vote.
“I’m glad to know our council is making decisions wisely,” Troester said.
The council voted down a second resolution, also sponsored by Dickerson, supporting universal health care.
Single-payer insurance advocate Jerry Call of South Thomaston told the council that if the country moved to a single-payer system, Maine likely would benefit more than other states because of its “relatively low income level.”
“Cities all over the country have passed resolutions,” Call said. “Our current system is totally unfair to small businesses.”
Dickerson again was the only councilor to vote in favor of the resolution.
“I think it’s good we had an opportunity for people to discuss these issues, because they’re going to vote on them,” she said after the meeting.
Rockland resident Horatio Cowan III spoke at length against universal health care.
“I think health care is a big problem and it needs to be fixed, but this is not the way,” Cowan said.
In other business, after some discussion the council unanimously voted to apply for a $200,000 Community Development Block Grant on behalf of Ascendant Energy, as long as the company’s planned construction is zoned correctly. The Direct Business Support grant would be used to establish a solar module manufacturing plant in Rockland that would create seven to 10 new jobs.
“We’re still moving forward,” said company CEO Chris Straka. “There have been some recent challenges, but this is the way out in a bad economy.”
Straka said his company would be one of “a handful” of photovoltaic cell producers in the country.
Some councilors had expressed concerns about the company in a previous agenda-setting meeting.
“I’m concerned about the $200,000 in case something should go wrong,” said Councilor Tom Molloy.
Harden said he understood that the solar energy business isn’t without risk.
“But I’m really pleased that we have the opportunity to be a place where this technology develops,” he said.
“I think the old adage of nothing ventured, nothing gained really applies,” he said.