The five candidates running to fill a vacant seat on the Bangor City Council named the city’s growing homeless population, rising cost of living, making Bangor friendlier to small businesses and crumbling infrastructure as their top-of-mind issues for the June special election.
Sarah Dubay, who was elected to her first City Council term in November 2020, died last fall after she was diagnosed with cancer. The winner of the special election to fill her seat will serve the rest of her term through November 2023.
Voters can cast their ballots on June 14 at the Cross Insurance Center from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., or request an absentee ballot from the city clerk’s office.
The candidates are Stephen Brough and Joseph Leonard, who have both run for the council before, and newcomers Tyler Rowe, Daniel R. Smith and Michael Maberry.
They are listed below in the order that they’ll appear on the June ballot.
Stephen Brough, 51, sits on the city Board of Ethics in addition to working as a sales and customer asset manager at Maine Commercial Tire. He said he would put the city on a “financial diet” and keep expenditures low. He would require voters to approve everything, including raising the mill rate, except for cost-of-living adjustments for city staff.
Brough, who ran for the council in 2019 and 2020, said he’s a populist when it comes to getting voters more engaged in how the city spends its money.
Bangor has been “kicking the can down the road” when it comes to maintaining its sidewalks and streets, he said, and he would require the city to address that as one of his first orders of business if elected.
Brough, who volunteers at the Neighbors Helping Neighbors food pantry in Hermon, would also focus on getting the city to work with other area municipalities to find regional solutions to housing the growing homeless population.
Joseph Leonard, 32, the manager of Evenrood’s Restaurant in downtown Bangor, said he wants to shift the city from a council-manager government to one with an elected mayor because the city needs a strong executive leader to establish an “effective message.” The change would also redistribute power from city staff and make councilors’ decisions more transparent, he said.
“A mayor has a very clear campaign message that they are elected on, and they’re effectively the Commander in Chief of the city of Bangor,” Leonard said. “The people of Bangor are more easily going to see that as, ‘Hey, this is what this guy’s running on, and we can assess if he’s doing the job that we elected him for adequately or not.’”
Leonard, who also ran in 2020 and 2021, said Bangor should encourage young people to stay in the city and reverse population loss by promoting its cultural amenities and taking advantage of its proximity to the University of Maine.
“That’s something that we just can’t afford to have,” he said of population loss, “because that would be a devastating blow, to not just Bangor, but central and northern Maine.”
Tyler Rowe, 35, runs a delivery business in Bangor and volunteers as the secretary of the Maine Libertarian Party.
He said the City Council should help improve business development opportunities, in addition to addressing the city’s infrastructure problems and growing homeless population.
He sees easing zoning rules as one way to make it easier for potential businesses to open up in Bangor, something the city has done to encourage more housing development.
That would send a message to the state and other communities that “people who are starting a business can thrive in this area, without the city government getting in the way, and limiting what they can do,” Rowe said.
Daniel R. Smith
Daniel Smith, 61, said he wanted to improve citizen participation and cut down on political polarization by soliciting regular feedback from residents. He would have the city send out surveys every six months.
“We’re pretty divided, and I think everybody’s opinion counts,” said Smith, a FedEx driver who grew up in Bangor. “What I’d like to do is get the feedback, and then analyze it, gather the facts that we get, analyze them, and then make a plan and execute it.”
Smith said he wanted to lead the council in supporting the Bangor Police Department as it faces hiring challenges. He also said he wanted to help “protect parental rights” by keeping teachers from exposing children to curricula that don’t adhere to their parents’ values. Smith said he didn’t see the sense in educating children under the age of 12 about sexual health.
“They’re kids,” he said. “Let them be kids.”
Michael Maberry, 33, said he wanted to address the affordable housing crunch by having Bangor and Penobscot County work together to provide grants to subsidize development and keep housing affordable while discouraging absentee landlords who let their properties fall into disrepair.
“There are challenges with landlords who aren’t in the area, just trying to make some money here,” said Maberry, who is the director of campus life at Husson University.
Without more proactively addressing absentee landlords’ neglect, he said, “I think the opportunity is missed when we’re not taking care of our own community members.”
Having shelter is a critical component of achieving financial and emotional stability, Maberry said.
“Housing is one of the most important pieces of someone’s ability to be successful in life,” he said.
Maberry said he would also work to establish Bangor as a service provider and hub for eastern and northern Maine at the state level, which would allow the city to bring in more resources and funding for social service programs and the police department.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Stephen Brough’s position on approval of increases to the city’s mill rate.