Three candidates are running for one at-large seat on the Brunswick Town Council this November, and all of them have pointed to fiscal responsibility and transparency as important issues facing the community.
Nathan MacDonald, Camden Reiss and Christopher Teel are running for the position. None of them currently sits on the council.
Transparency became an issue earlier this year when residents faced an unexpected increase in their property taxes due to new property assessments. The backlash prompted the town council to hold the tax rate for another year.
Reiss and MacDonald, both Brunswick residents under 30 years old, also pointed to the affordable housing crisis as a reason they’re running.
Brunswick residents will go to the polls on Nov. 7. There are also some uncontested races for other seats on the Town council.
Alleviating the affordable housing crisis is the top issue for MacDonald, who works at a domestic violence resource center. MacDonald, 27, who is a renter himself, said he’d pursue changes such as inclusionary zoning and bonuses for building more densely if elected.
“My partner and I tried to move to Brunswick for over a year and couldn’t find an apartment for under $2,000 a month,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald also said he’s passionate about climate resilience. He said the town could work with private enterprises and seek state and federal funding for energy and waste management improvements. MacDonald said he’d also like to see solar panels on municipal buildings and regulations requiring new developments to meet sustainability standards.
MacDonald also suggested ways to improve the town’s transparency over things such as tax assessments, including seeking feedback on government decisions, doing more roaming forums and sending out more mailers to reach people who can’t attend meetings.
“I think I would bring a perspective that is desperately needed on the town council,” MacDonald said.
Reiss, a 26-year-old marine harvester, hopes he’ll be the voice for working class people if elected to the council. He’s lived in Brunswick for four years now, harvesting clams and bloodworms, and he hopes to continue the type of work he’s done on the town’s Marine Resource Committee.
“I really want to represent the working class people in Brunswick, and I feel that they’re not really getting a fair shake at things in a lot of ways,” he said.
Affordable housing is a priority for Reiss, too. He said to alleviate the increasing rent prices, building more housing is key. But the issue goes deeper for his line of work.
With rent prices so high, Reiss said he can’t afford to keep working in Brunswick and buy a house. He’s hoping to change shellfish license regulations so he and his colleagues in the harvesting business can live somewhere cheaper while maintaining those licenses. Brunswick provides 10 percent of shellfish licenses to nonresidents.
The ever-increasing town budget is something Reiss said has to change as well. He said in a time where money is tight and living costs are high, Brunswick should prioritize spending money on “things that matter.”
“Like building historic sidewalks that cost, I don’t know the exact figure, but it’s just an exorbitant amount of money just for something that, you know, is just a sightseeing thing,” Reiss said. “And I appreciate that kind of thing, but in today’s economy … I think we should prioritize things that make a difference in peoples’ lives.”
Reiss, like MacDonald, thinks the town can be more transparent with the community by putting out weekly or biweekly releases to let people know what’s going on and how the community can be involved.
Teel, a 61-year-old former employee of Bath Iron Works, said he’s had ties to the community for 40 years and is running to reduce local taxes and governance. If elected, Teel said he wouldn’t support spending money on non-essentials due to the economic difficulties facing residents.
“I can no longer stand by and watch our town leadership levy tax increases on residents forcing them to move or greatly alter their lifestyle just to afford living here – that is fundamentally wrong,” Teel said in the email.
Teel also said he plans to put seniors and veterans first and improve transparency in the town following the reassessment issue. He said, if elected, he plans to remind the town government that it works for the people.
“I will be the common sense voice challenging the current agendas that have overtaken our town funds, energy and focus,” Teel said in the email.