April 26, 2018
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Dateline Millinocket: Democracy turned on its ear

By Marsha Donahue and R. Wayne Curlew, Special to the BDN

We are all exhausted from fighting with our Town Council about the prospect of a national park in the area. Millinocket is suspended halfway between pride and shame, and discussions in the community often seem to turn on a hair trigger, belying distrust of anyone but those from this town.

At a July 28 meeting, the council members spoke about the disrespect with which they have been treated recently, being called names in the weeks leading up to the meeting, but, in fact, there has been some name calling on both sides.

If it isn’t irritating enough that we had to close our businesses to attend the council meeting scheduled at 4 p.m., we were then given a gag order, only being allowed to speak for three minutes each, whereas the council members who will speak in the rebuttal position, were given unlimited time. We were instructed about this upon arriving at the town meeting. Many of the prepared statements of absentees were cut short because of the last-minute time limit. We did not have even known the final content of the council’s resolve against a national park as it was not finalized until the day of the meeting.

Our councilors represent the worst of the community that way, and they somehow feel a mandate of absolute power, which it is said, corrupts absolutely. We, the councilors, can speak but you, the public, not so much, and we, the councilors, get all the voting rights and the last word.

Their words were about pride in the past and the shame in having to evolve into something else is palpable when they speak. One insensitive and insolent councilor referred to the park initiative as like the Nazis taking over Czechoslovakia and, incidentally, wouldn’t this be name-calling? Even worse, the council has focused its energy on the unorganized territory outside the town line. Given its disregard, our main street may turn into wilderness eventually anyway.

The only sound direction we, the business community and residents interested in the possibility of new economic opportunities, have, is to unseat these councilors and get rid of the town manager, all of whom seem bent on holding us back. This has been the subject of discussion for several years but, judging by the council meeting last month, the time is now.

One of our military families left the meeting particularly upset by the degree to which the council spoke of its hatred and distrust of the federal government, prompting someone to say the American flag should come down off town hall. They are becoming the worst aspect of the government they despise. What happened at the July 28 meeting was not democracy.

We are asking our town to stand together against this broken system of government. The council is threatening to withhold money from the Chamber of Commerce and the Millinocket Downtown Revitalization Committee for not supporting their view regarding the park, holding the business community hostage. No matter what your views on the park, how can we allow them to continue to govern with disrespect for the residents and businesses?

Marsha Donahue and R. Wayne Curlew own North Light Gallery in Millinocket.

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