BANGOR, Maine — The good and the bad that come with growth were at the forefront of Monday night’s forum, where seven candidates vying for three spots on the City Council made pitches for why they should represent Bangor residents.
Candidates said they were pleased with the economic, entertainment and cultural growth of the city in recent years, but some stressed that the city needed to be fiscally careful and work to address crime and drug-related problems.
The candidates are:
• Patricia Blanchette of Old Orchard Drive, an incumbent councilor and two-time council chairwoman. She serves as chairwoman of the infrastructure committee and is a member of the finance and government operations committees. She also served in the state Legislature.
• Richard Bruns of Union Street, a Bangor-based chiropractor. He has served in organizations such as Kiwanis and the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce. He also has held positions on the Bangor Charter Advisory Committee and the Maine Medical Assessment Foundation.
• Pauline Civiello of Coombs Street, who works as office manager for an optometry office owned by her husband, Charles Civiello Jr. She was involved in Boy Scouts for 25 years, with each of her three sons attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.
• Ken Huhn of Leighton Street, who has master’s and bachelor’s degrees in business and works as director of program development at United Cerebral Palsy of Maine. He has served as past chairman of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce and on the Cardiovascular Health Council.
• David Nealley of Baldwin Drive, publisher of Maine Seniors Magazine, has worked in the past in the financial services industry and as general manager of a company that made axes and garden tools. Nealley, a former councilor, has served terms on the finance, business and economic development, transportation and infrastructure, and regional asset committees.
• Chelsea Prybylo of Hudson Road, who has a bachelor’s degree in history from New York City’s Fordham University. The Connecticut native volunteers at St. Joseph Hospital, where her mother is CEO, and works on her family’s farm.
• Megan Shorette of Norfolk Street, a 2006 University of Maine graduate who serves as executive director for KahBang Arts, a nonprofit group dedicated to finding and supporting independent artists. She ran for a spot on the council in 2011.
“When I grew up in Bangor, it was not this Bangor,” Nealley said in explaining his concern about more prevalent crime in the city. “Bangor has changed.”
He said that with new patrol officers coming to the Bangor Police Department from the academy, resident involvement and council support, the city could start to look more like the Bangor he grew up in.
Civiello said she started a neighborhood watch group in her community. She argued that similar programs in other parts of the city could help to “resurrect the quality of life in Bangor.”
Civiello stressed that the city needs to “live within its means” in order to keep taxes in check. She was part of the effort to get a question on the Nov. 6 ballot that would add a provision to the city charter to require voter ratification of council action to borrow money in certain situations. Other candidates, including Shorette, Blanchette, Huhn and Bruns, said they were concerned such an amendment might hinder the council and cost the city money because it would need to increase the number of special elections.
Blanchette said that her 17 nonconsecutive years on the council gave her experience that “brings a level of stability” to a group with several young members.
The growth and development of the city’s entertainment corridor, which includes the area around the waterfront, casino and new arena, brings “vitality and life to Bangor that you would be hard pressed not to recognize.”
With the boom in activity and development downtown and along the waterfront has come an apparent uptick in the amount of drug use and crime in the city, candidates said.
Shorette said Bangor can boast about its entertainment offerings and “bustling downtown,” but along with that come some “growing pains.” She said the city could learn a great deal from looking at cities that have gone through similar expansions and sought to mitigate problems that stemmed from them.
Prybylo stressed the importance of attracting more job providers to Bangor. She said Bangor could become a cultural hub if it “supports the institutions that are here and invites more in.” She said she has struggled to find work in the city outside of the health care industry, and that the city needs a broader range of options to continue its growth.
Bruns said the city should work with universities and other communities in the region to set itself up for the future. Ensuring quality Internet infrastructure will be key in that effort, he said. The council set up by this 2013 election will be the one to set this work in motion, Bruns said.
“The whole package is here, and it’s just a matter of taking it to the next level,” he said.
Huhn stressed the need to work with surrounding communities to strengthen the economy. He said Bangor should work with coastal cities and foreign investors to have products, domestic and foreign, shipped through Bangor. In order to accomplish that, Bangor would need to work to improve railway infrastructure and potentially bring the moorings in the Penobscot River back into use.
The river also could continue to be used as a beacon for businesses and entertainment, Huhn said, citing the example of the San Antonio River Walk.
Election Day is Nov. 6. Polls in Bangor will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Civic Center. Early voting will be held until Nov. 1, with polls open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Civic Center. Absentee ballots will not be available after Nov. 1.
For more Bangor election information, visit www.bangormaine.gov.