BANGOR, Maine — Attorney Joe Baldacci called on the city to be more welcoming to immigrants in a speech that followed his being named the City Council’s new chairman and Bangor’s new mayor on Monday.
A councilor entering his 13th year of service, the 51-year-old was unanimously voted to his position following the swearing-in of returning councilors Daniel Tremble, Cary Weston and Gibran Graham at a special meeting on Monday morning.
Baldacci cited a privately-planned multicultural center, ongoing downtown revitalization and plans to expand the city’s bus service as examples of the council’s good shepherding of the city’s economy and culture.
He quoted Henry David Thoreau in calling Bangor “a star on the edge of night.”
“In a time of dark images, I see a Bangor that will never tolerate hatred, bigotry, discrimination or prejudice — not now, not ever. I see a Bangor that has a welcome sign to people all over the world who share our love for America and our desire to be contributing members of our city,” Baldacci said Monday.
Baldacci, who has served as chairman previously, called upon local governments statewide to consider revising the state’s property tax system, which he described as a centuries-old relic. He named as priorities for the council renewing a vendor’s contract for the city’s waterfront concerts, continuing to fight drug addiction, maintaining strong city services and maintaining tight control over the city’s budget.
A critic of the chairman selection process, Councilor Gibran Graham, seconded Councilor David Nealley’s nomination of Baldacci to become mayor, which in Bangor is the chairman’s other title. Tremble earned 7,607 votes, Weston 6,970 and Graham 5,972 in last week’s election. Graham reclaimed his seat, while the others filled seats vacated by Councilors Nelson Durgin and Josh Plourde, who opted not to run. Tremble and Weston have previously served on the council.
Graham said he plans to bring up how the mayor is selected to the Government Operations Committee, which addresses council processes.
“I heard nothing about the selection or the process from other councilors after Thursday night’s meeting until today when a nomination was made. Nothing has changed since it was briefly discussed amongst the council last week,” Graham said. “I am still determined to see us discuss the process at a committee meeting to see if there’s a more transparent way to go about the process in the future.”
Graham aired his concerns to the council during a workshop at the police station on Thursday. He said that last year’s selection process was “ugly,” and several councilors at the time described a chaotic and secretive process conducted among them through one-on-one meetings, phone calls and text messages behind closed doors.
The council majority seemed to disagree on Thursday. They said the City Charter allows the council, not residents, to select the chairman. They preferred having one-on-one conversations about the new chairman privately to ensure frankness and said publicly airing their opinions of the chairman candidates could be too bruising and ultimately counterproductive.
Baldacci said he offered himself as a candidate for the chairmanship. He said he had three or four conversations and a few texts sounding him out on the chairmanship prior to Monday’s meeting, and sided with the majority in thinking that the conversations ought to be kept private.
“This is the same process we have had since 1932,” Baldacci said. “It’s important it be cordial. Ultimately we have to work together on a number of issues and we have to work productively. I would hate to see any disruption caused by it.”
Graham said he had no problems with Baldacci serving as chairman.
“I’ve seen firsthand Joe’s hard work on several issues for the people of Bangor during my time on the council. I have a lot of faith that he will strive to provide great leadership in this role as well as work to keep the council moving toward consensus rather than discord,” Graham said.
The brother of former Gov. John Baldacci, Joe Baldacci has practiced law in Bangor for 25 years. He served on the council from 1996-2002 and 2011-present.