BANGOR, Maine — A meet-and-greet session for challengers running for the Bangor City Council drew 35 people, and five of the six challengers to Husson University Sunday afternoon.
The public session, organized by Pauline Civiello of Bangor, was intended to introduce the six challengers running for three open seats on the council, and did not include incumbent councilors Rick Bronson and David Nealley, who were not invited because they are running for re-election.
It was their exclusion that caused former Bangor councilor and mayor Joseph Baldacci to reconsider his participation and pull out of the 2 p.m. event held at Dyke Center for Family Business.
“I must respectfully decline your invitation for the Oct. 2nd meet and greet,” Baldacci said Saturday in an email to Pauline Civiello that he also sent to Bangor media outlets. “I learned for the first time, in today’s Bangor Daily News, you have chosen to exclude two candidates from this public forum. That is something I cannot and will not ever support or participate in.”
Although Civiello extended an invitation in Saturday’s BDN story to Nealley and Bronson to attend as a member of the audience and ask questions, neither chose to attend.
“I want to mention, that as private citizens, we have the right to select our guests,” Civiello said Sunday. “I elected not to invite the incumbents because they’ve been in office for three years, so we know who they are, they have the city hall government channel at their disposal, and they get plenty of media coverage. Also, the League of Women Voters scheduled a formal debate between all the candidates on Nov. 2.”
Civiello had name tags in front of each challenger, who sat side by side at a long table, as well as tags for Nealley and Bronson below the top edge of the podium to the immediate left of the table “so there’s no perceived favoritism.”
Those who did attend and meet residents informally before and after a more formal 90-minute question-and-answer session included Scott Davis, James Gallant, Frances Loring, Megan Shorette and Ben Sprague.
Sprague released a statement before the event.
“I think it’s silly that the two incumbents were not invited and I don’t hold it against anyone for not participating,” Sprague said. “That said, I gave my word to Pauline Civiello that I would attend. I think the Bangor City Council needs a jolt of fresh energy and some new ideas.”
The five challengers reiterated those two points often while answering questions concerning taxes, the new civic arena and events center being constructed in Bangor, development of the Bangor Waterfront, what their four or five top priorities would be while governing, civic government transparency, their willingness to butt heads and fight for a cause, table games at Hollywood Slots Hotel and Raceway, and placing a cost limit on projects the council can pass without voter approval.
Even the former Bass Park gazebo, which the Bangor Band performed concerts in, was discussed. Gallant said, he didn’t know whether it had been burned down or demolished and wanted to know where it was.
The gazebo was torn down by construction crews building the new Bangor arena and, according to city officials, may be rebuilt near the walking path alongside the Bangor side of the Penobscot River behind Bangor’s Waterfront Pavilion.
Three of the six challengers, and two of the five present Sunday, are Bangor natives. Baldacci, Sprague and Gallant are Bangor born and bred. Shorette is a Skowhegan native and 2006 University of Maine graduate who has lived in Bangor for six years. Loring is a Maine native and Bangor resident for the last 15 years who recently retired from a 25-year nursing career as patient care administrator for women’s and children’s services at Eastern Maine Medical Center. Davis is an internist physician from California who specializes in addiction medicines.
Baldacci is a University of Maine graduate and longtime attorney practicing in Bangor, Sprague is a Harvard University graduate and a financial adviser with Ameriprise Financial, who was a teacher for four years. Gallant earned a master’s degree at Husson and is a landlord who also operates a lawn care business.
As for priorities, Loring listed safety and security, education, city infrastructure with an emphasis on tourism promotion, and research and development to grow the business community. Sprague said his were police and fire, education, taxes, and streamlining government. Shorette’s are safety, education, community outreach and support for younger residents to keep them here and for older residents to provide aid, and business development. Davis said education, public safety and law enforcement, health services, and city infrastructure, also with an emphasis on tourism. Gallant said education, public works, parks and recreation, and Bangor library support.
Civiello said she was pleased with how the two-hour event turned out.