Lewiston, mayor: Shane Bouchard, Mark Cayer, Ben Chin, Ronald Potvin and Charles Soule

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Shane Bouchard

Name: Shane Bouchard

Office sought: mayor

Occupation: self-employed, owner of Maine Home Recreation and Bouchard Lawn Care.

Education: Dirigo High School, 1997, Central Maine Community College.

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Family: wife, Allison.

Political experience: three years, Lewiston City Council, representing Ward 4.

ANSWERS

1. Why do you think you’re the most qualified, or best candidate for this seat? 

Having been on the City Council for the last three years, I understand our current challenges and issues. I am running to be the mayor of Lewiston and nothing more — I do not have my eyes on a higher office, nor am I looking to become an activist with a title. I’m running to continue to serve the community I love, but in a greater way.

2. How do you envision your leadership style in working with the City Council and city staff?

As mayor, I will bring new proposals forward for the City Council to consider, and work with the council to improve existing policies. I will put a focus on encouraging councilors to be out in the community more at events, grand openings, etc. I will also encourage councilors to accompany me on trips to Augusta to advocate for Lewiston at the State House. Lewiston is blessed with some of the best municipal staff in the state, but the mayor should give them challenges and leverage their skills with new ideas. At the same time, the mayor should not micromanage our city staff.

3. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing your city? Why? 

Our image. While great strides have been made in Lewiston, we still have a lot of work to do. For at least 30 years we’ve been an attraction for stigmatized demographics and economically draining social service dependent groups. The fiscal impact of this has exceeded the realistic limits of what our city can support. Sweeping these issues under the rug rather than tackling them head-on makes us look incompetent and oblivious to outsiders. As mayor, I will be Lewiston’s champion, not by pointing out our flaws but by addressing them, while promoting the great aspects of our city.

4. What do you like about the city budget passed this year, and what don’t you like?

I like that we were able to strengthen our Fire Department, and that we are finally at a point where investment in our roads will start improving our overall street conditions. I liked that our bonding is very low. I do not like the need for two additional positions in our General Assistance office, sharp increases in translation services in several department budgets, having to raise water, sewer, and storm water rates, failing to move the pool from the recreation budget to the general fund, or that pedestrian deaths were politicized.

5. What is the best way for your city to boost economic development and its attraction to people from outside the region? 

Raise our median income, not by relying on higher minimum wages, but by attracting single family homeowners and market rate renters, without overpopulating ourselves with ever-increasing numbers of stigmatized populations, who feed off our taxpayers through social service dollars. We need to protect single-family neighborhoods and encourage single-family developments. We must continue to renew the inner city by removing substandard buildings, repairing salvageable buildings, encouraging the innovative co-op model, and build market-rate housing, not subsidized.

6. Do you support the merger of Lewiston and Auburn? 

No. Lewiston and Auburn are communities that cooperate on many levels already. There is no great need or overwhelming benefit to becoming one municipality beyond bigger government, larger bureaucracy, and higher taxes for many residents. After thoroughly reviewing the proposed charter and the report of the Joint Charter Commission, I’ve found the claims of the pro-merger folks to be speculative at best. I will be voting no on the merger, because I believe in Lewiston. We are not the dusty, old mill town the merger proponents would have us think. We are not devoid of issues by any stretch, but we can get there on our own with strong, convicted leadership.

 

Mark Cayer

Name: Mark Cayer

Office sought: mayor of Lewiston.

Occupation: self-employed at Maine PI Service.

Education: Lewiston public schools and the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

Family: married to my wife, Susan, for 32 years. We have two adult sons and five grandchildren.

Political experience: I recently served as the Ward 6 Lewiston city councilor for six years. I was elected by my peers twice to serve as council president. I currently serve on the board of directors of the Western Maine Transportation Services. In the past, I served as a SAD 9 School Board member, and a Farmington selectman as well. Locally, I’ve served on many key committees, including the airport board, L-A Transit Committee and railroad board.

ANSWERS

1. Why do you think you’re the most qualified, or best candidate for this seat? 

With my experience on the Lewiston City Council, I have an understanding and a plan to create a vibrant local economy. I believe this makes me the best person to be your next mayor. We must address four key issues in our community if we want our demographics to change. We must strengthen our local economy, create and improve our place, start marketing our growing educated workforce, and begin addressing our above-average poverty rate. When we begin this process it will create a place where our kids want to stay and start a family.

2. How do you envision your leadership style in working with the City Council and city staff?

During my six years on the City Council, and my time as council president, my peers and many outside organizations have recognized my ability to bring opposing sides together. I am a firm believer that good policy and ideas are not a virtue of one side. In fact, when opposing sides find compromise, a balanced and sustainable policy becomes the norm. To be a good local leader, you must recognize this and share this belief and expectation. At times, as a public servant, we must remind others that we are here to serve the taxpayers and community members only.

3. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing your city? Why? 

Lewiston’s poverty rate. This brings many challenges to our economic development, and is one demographic where there is no quick fix. Yes, this needs to be addressed for economic development, but more importantly, for our own community’s sake. We must begin holding everyone accountable, from elected leaders, to special interest groups, to the people stuck in poverty. We need to stop focusing resources on the individual results of poverty, and begin focusing on the root causes of poverty. A new approach will be used, in order to show investors that this community takes poverty seriously.

4. What do you like about the city budget passed this year, and what don’t you like?

When first elected to the City Council during the last recession, our debt service payment was nearly 25 percent of our entire budget, which made the effects of the recession much worse for our city. During that time, I got the council to adopt a policy that dramatically began a reduction in our debt, and continues to do so today. Our current budget reflects this — our overall budgeted debt amount is now down to 17 percent. I don’t like that this budget anticipates an increase in new growth at .26 percent, or $30,093, which isn’t sustainable growth for our economy.

5. What is the best way for your city to boost economic development and its attraction to people from outside the region? 

Companies across the country are looking for communities to invest in. Lewiston doesn’t meet the needs of most of those companies. If we’re going to truly reform our community, and create something sustainable, we must first change our focus. There are four key issues in our community that must be addressed if we want the demographics to change. We must strengthen our local economy, create and improve our place, start marketing our growing educated workforce, and begin addressing our above-average poverty level. Our local economy will be the springboard to our success if we begin investing locally.

6. Do you support the merger of Lewiston and Auburn? 

I personally do see value in a merged city — I support the idea of smaller government. Like Republican Gov. LePage, I believe a merged city would place Lewiston–Auburn on the map. That said, the actual merger vote is the easy part. We will know on Nov. 7, and any elected official must move our city forward in exactly the direction the voters decide. I recently came out with my economic development plan that’s solely based on Lewiston. This plan will create measurable and sustainable solutions to move our city forward.

BIO
Ben Chin

Name: Ben Chin

Office sought: mayor of Lewiston.
Occupation: Maine People’s Alliance political engagement director.
Education: Bachelor of Arts from Bates College, 2007.
Family: wife, Nicola Chin, and two children.

Political experience: community organizer in Lewiston, leader in campaigns to raise the minimum wage and increase school funding, protecting same-day voter registration, and prescription drugs for the elderly.

ANSWERS

1. Why do you think you’re the most qualified, or best candidate for this seat? 

Only with new ideas and new energy in City Hall can Lewiston reach its full potential. After listening to the feedback of thousands of voters, I have a bold, practical plan to tackle the opioid epidemic, ensure immigrant integration, make sure slumlords play by the same rules as everyone else, foster small businesses (particularly in retail), exempt homeowners from the rain tax, turn our welfare system into a public job corps, and provide a $250 property tax rebate for seniors— all through reforming the way we use existing resources, not raising property taxes. It’s all doable, but only with new leadership.

2. How do you envision your leadership style in working with the City Council and city staff?

With rank-and-file city staff — like teachers, firefighters, and police officers — it’s important to have a direct line of communication, because frontline workers identify issues first. Then you work with department heads and city management to identify policy options. With the City Council, you debate those options and find the best solution together. None of this is possible, however, without a people’s movement pushing for change. The mayor’s role is to make sure that the people’s issues have priority. It’s too easy to keep doing the same things and expecting different results.

3. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing your city? Why? 

The common thread connecting all the issues we’ve discussed — the opioid epidemic, immigrant integration, welfare, taxes, housing, business growth, etc. — is a decade of being content to make little policy change in most of these areas. Our world has changed, but our laws have not. Talk isn’t good enough. Relying on staff to work around the edges isn’t good enough. The public expects leaders to make fundamental change, even if it upsets a few people who benefit from the status quo. That requires the courage of a people’s movement, aligned with a clear vision for the future.

4. What do you like about the city budget passed this year, and what don’t you like?

Augusta has passed three major tax breaks for the rich in the last five years. That fact drives everything in our budget. They push major costs onto us, forcing us to pay more in property taxes, even while receiving fewer services. The Maine Municipal Association calculates that Lewiston is owed $24 million through just revenue-sharing cuts. To the extent that our budget pinched pennies, it is a fine document. But its premise, that Lewiston must tighten its belt to make life easier for the rich, is completely outrageous. Millionaires are doing fine. They don’t need more of our money.

5. What is the best way for your city to boost economic development and its attraction to people from outside the region? 

Lewiston has over half a million dollars sitting in an account to build small businesses. We need to get that money out, and small business retailers would be a great focus. Right now, it’s hard to find a place to buy underwear in Lewiston. With just three more retailers, Lisbon Street’s first five blocks would basically be revitalized. We need to have a Lisbon Street that everyone can be proud of, and encouraging small business retailers will attract people from all over. It will send a signal that we are ready to move forward with all the other major initiatives, like the Riverfront Master Plan, and the Cultural Plan for Lewiston-Auburn.

6. Do you support the merger of Lewiston and Auburn? 

No. While I had every intention of voting for it, I can’t support the cuts it suggests. We need more firefighters, not fewer. We need to pay our teachers what they deserve, not segregate our school system. We need more people who can advocate for state and federal resources, but most “savings” come from eliminating exactly those positions. There’s plenty Lewiston and Auburn could be doing bigger and better together. My heart is with all those who want to collaborate more. But the plan, as I understand it, undercuts that goal through the cuts it proposes.

 

Ronald W. Potvin

Name: Ronald W. Potvin

Office sought: mayor of Lewiston.

Occupation: corrections officer, Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office.

Education: Federal Police Academy, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., Massachusetts Police Academy, Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

Political experience: vice chairman of COLAC (Coalition Opposed to Lewiston-Auburn Consolidation) 2016 to present, former Auburn city councilor and School Committee member 2007 to 2013, former state director of Massachusetts Christian Coalition and Washington, D.C. lobbyist 1994 to 1996.

ANSWERS

1. Why do you think you’re the most qualified, or best candidate for this seat?

I believe I am the most qualified for mayor of Lewiston because of my extensive political involvement in other communities, namely Cambridge, Mass., and Auburn. Most of the success of these communities can be translated over to the city of Lewiston if you understand what can work and what does not work. I bring this perspective with the abundance of learning experiences on how to get it done, and the avoidance of pitfalls that can derail a city. Lewiston is a city with much-needed fixing, and a needed change of vision that will help create a new set of goals that a fresh set of eyes from outside of Lewiston can accomplish.

2. How do you envision your leadership style in working with the City Council and city staff?

My leadership style will focus on a can-do, we-need-to-fix-it energy, that will come from a centrist platform veering only left or right when completely necessary, as directed by staff or of the consensus of the council, while paying close attention to the public concerns and wishes. There are a lot of different operations in a city to tackle, and recognizing what issues can be successfully worked on and what needs to be left aside for a later date is important, and can save the public and staff a lot of wasted energy and heartache. I don’t believe in the left or right agendas that my opponents presently bring to the table.

3. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing your city? Why? 

The public image of Lewiston is the primary issue, as that affects all other issues — such as economic growth and population growth. The image, along with culture and history, weigh down the city from moving forward. These issues need to be addressed in a major way. Lewiston’s blue collar factory history can not be changed. However, the image and culture can. The whole issue of the merger with Auburn came about to create a new image for the city, but the problem lies within. Nothing will change in Lewiston as long as the tree streets, along with the elements of crime and disrepair, exist.

4. What do you like about the city budget passed this year, and what don’t you like?

My feeling on the most recent budget is I did not like tax relief from additional state funding being put off until next year. It has been my experience that once a municipality gets money, they keep money. In Auburn, we forced relief to happen when funds became available. We knew the next year would have plenty of reasons to spend it, so we provided tax relief at the earliest possibility. The part of the budget I liked was that the council was able to keep intact the delivery of service at present levels, without reductions.

5. What is the best way for your city to boost economic development and its attraction to people from outside the region? 

Economic progress will stem from the city addressing and fixing its ills. When businesses and possible relocating residents look to build a future, they seek a community that also looks to build a future. When they look at Lewiston, they see burnt-out and torn down mills, or inactive mill sites. They see a downtown housing stock falling apart, infested by bedbugs, rodents, and lead. They drive down city streets to see prostitutes and drug dealers doing their trade, and they sense the economic isolation with Lewiston wanting to go it alone, and try to compete against a Portland with numerous successes and recognition.

6. Do you support the merger of Lewiston and Auburn? 

I am a founding member and vice chair of COLAC. I have been fighting against the merger attempt because of my experiences stated above. I have studied these proposals for 10 years, and they all amount to the same thing. That thing being increased taxes, unintended financial consequences, and reductions in service, without addressing the total impact of the cost to merge. This is a failed proposal, with a lot of money and energy wasted. As mayor, I would never entertain any further attempt to merge cities, and would work more to a regional approach.

Charles Arthur Soule

Name: Charles Arthur Soule

Office sought: mayor

Occupation: did not respond

Education: did not respond

Family: did not respond

Political experience: years of running for mayor of Lewiston

ANSWERS

1. Why do you think you’re the most qualified, or best candidate for this seat? 

Because the other candidates have or are holding office and are part of the problem. I take on the “establishment” for a better future for Lewiston. As look that they have do to Lewiston, run it into the ground. And, now they say the merger will save us. They mean save them, not us. They will bend to the wind, (me) as a tree bends to the wind, for the wind does not bent for the tree. I am a leader and not a “yes” man that help cause the problems that the merger “yes” is to fix and will not.

2. How do you envision your leadership style in working with the City Council and city staff?

I will use the people’s initiative if need be and call on citizens to aid me in my pursuits as a team effort for a better community. A leader leads, and plays no favorites and does not make close friends or special interest commitment. He must be detached and hypervigilant to his surroundings. As they say, “the top is a lonely place.” But, that is the cost of being a leader for the people’s interest.

3. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing your city? Why? 

A Lewiston public voting “no” on the merger. This is a once-in-a-100-year issue that comes along that truly makes a difference.

4. What do you like about the city budget passed this year, and what don’t you like?

Well, what I like is that this budget shows how inept the current Lewiston administration is. As they are already reallocating from different areas of the 2018-fiscal city budgeted appropriated funding money to use in other areas of the already passed 2018 city fiscal budget. This action means that organization that thought they would get funding or project that were to be done will not.

5. What is the best way for your city to boost economic development and its attraction to people from outside the region? 

My suggestion is to have more not-for-profits sharing in the between 31 percent to 34 percent of all residents and businesses that are paying all of the Lewiston municipal and school city budget. No big-box store is coming to Lewiston, when between 31 through 34 percent of residents and businesses here are paying all of the school and municipal budget. And, that the Community Development Block Grant monies alleged to be over $700,000 from the federal government. And this money should be utilized in creation of micro small businesses and rent subsidies, and not be used to facilitate municipal employees’ paychecks subsidization.

6. Do you support the merger of Lewiston and Auburn? 

No, I do not support the merger. I was the only candidate to run for the consolidation as a “no” and lost the seat to all “yes” persons.

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