This year is an “off” year as far as state and federal elections are concerned. In a year such as this, on a local level we always see a large drop off in the number of registered voters who actually go out to vote. Yet like this year’s local Town election, the elections close to home often have the most direct impact on our day to day lives. They are an important opportunity to have a say and input into how Lewiston is and will be run.
This year, despite the signs and ads you may see, there is no contested race for Town Supervisor. BUT each voter in Lewiston still has the opportunity to truly make their vote count in an election which can change the faces and direction of the Town Board. Even if you do not cast a vote on the Supervisor ballot position, each voter gets to select ANY TWO candidates to be elected to the Town Board, regardless of where their name appears on the ballot for the “Town Council” positions; you will see at the top of the ballot column for “Town Council”, that you “vote for any two”. I am hoping that you make your “ANY TWO” really count by voting for the only two candidates who have actually truly been transparent this campaign year: John Jacoby and Fran Flanagan.
“Transparency” is a word thrown around all the time in elections. But to see how really “transparent” you can expect an elected official to be, start with how transparent they are about their own campaign finances. State election law requires candidates spending more than $1000 and local committees supporting candidates for local office, to file periodic financial disclosures in years where there is an active election, like this year. Specifically, for this election year, financial disclosure filings were due by July 15th; by August 11th, September 1st, and September 22nd for the primary; and by October 6th and October 27th for the November general election.
Yet if you check the state board of elections website, you will see that as of October 27th, the ONLY financial filings for these required filing dates in the Town elections were by candidates John Jacoby and Fran Flanagan and the Lewiston Democratic Committee. The Lewiston Republican Committee has filed no financial reports since July despite a plethora of ads referencing “Paid for by the Lewiston Republican Committee”, signs on lawns, printed palm cards and a number of letters sent with first class postage; the Republican Town Board candidates have filed no periodic financial reports and one of them does not even have a registered account with the state board of elections for filing campaign disclosures!
With this lack of transparency about the actual financing of campaigns for Town office, ask yourself which candidates are more likely to provide you the true transparency we want out of our elected officials?
The Town is faced with a number of financial challenges looking into even the very near future, coupled with an aging infrastructure and the loss of past revenues from sources such as the Modern Disposal tipping fees. Few would disagree that as a Town, we need to spend on things that keep us safe, keep our roads drivable in all weather conditions, and bring clean, safe water to our homes. If we have to pay a little for that because of increasing costs we see everywhere, few of us would say no.
But for far too long, just like the campaign finances of several of the candidates and their party committee, the citizens of Lewiston have been kept in the dark on many of the places and things for which our tax dollars and the Town’s revenues are really being spent.
For example, many households received a one-time only distribution of a $153 debit card this year; that money was sitting in a Town account since before 2015 from the sale of the 6.5 megawatts of power from the relicensing deal in 2007 with the Power Authority. Starting in 2016, thanks to a resolution adopted by the Republican Board on November 16, 2015, the money from the sale of power is now kept for use by the Town. Up until about two months ago, if you wanted to know how much came in from selling that power, or where the money was spent—well it was not possible to know from the Town’s website! A financial reconciliation for 2015 and 2016 was finally placed on the Town’s website in late summer 2017 but only after one citizen pressed for the information by filing a Freedom of Information request. To see that reconciliation, go to the Town of Lewiston’s website, click on Departments, scroll down and click on “Finance” and then scroll down more to find the reconciliation—not so simple or quick! Perhaps there is a reason for making it not so easily found. When you look at the reconciliation for 2016, you will see that over $112,000 of monies from the sale of that power was burned up in gasoline and diesel fuel in Town vehicles.
If you are tired of the lack of open, transparent actions, there are two new faces, both first time candidates for any elected office, running for Town Board: Fran Flanagan and John Jacoby. They have worked hard the past five months to get their message out all over the Town that it is time for change and for real transparency and accountability by the Town Board. They truly want to be your voice of reason in Town Hall. They have received enthusiastic support in all areas of the Town and from people of all walks of life, regardless of their political party affiliation.
Please make sure though that you take that final step showing support for them and the values they want to help bring back to Town Hall. Be sure to actually go vote on election day so your voice is heard! You will find Fran and John on Rows A, E and G on you ballot. Make your “Vote for Any Two” really count!