Sun Journal, public libraries host debates on Twin Cities merger

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LEWISTON — The Sun Journal, along with the public libraries in Lewiston and Auburn, will host two debates on the upcoming referendum about merging the Twin Cities.

The public is encouraged to attend.

The first debate will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, in Callahan Hall at the Lewiston Public Library.

Robert Reed will represent the Coalition Opposed to Lewiston-Auburn Consolidation and Gene Geiger, chairman of the Lewiston and Auburn Joint Charter Commission, will represent One LA, which supports consolidation. Both men live in Lewiston.

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The event will be moderated by Scott Knapp, president of Central Maine Community College.

Marcela Peres, director of the Lewiston Public Library, said, “The library is committed to connecting community members to the information they need, including civic education. We are pleased to partner with the Sun Journal to host this public debate so that Lewiston voters can be fully informed before making their Election Day decisions.”

On Nov. 7, the voters of Auburn and Lewiston will be asked: “Do you approve the charter and consolidation agreement as recommended by the Lewiston Auburn Joint Charter Commission?”

The question is the result of a yearslong study by the commission to draft a proposed charter unifying Lewiston and Auburn as one governing body for the Twin Cities.

On Monday, Sept. 25, the Auburn Public Library and the Sun Journal will host a debate from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Androscoggin Community Room on the first floor of the library.

Auburn City Councilor Robert Stone will represent Coalition Opposed to Lewiston-Auburn Consolidation and Joint Charter Commission member Chip Morrison will represent One LA. Both live in Auburn.

The event will be moderated by retired attorney Cushman Anthony of Portland.

Library Director Mamie Anthoine Ney said she’s honored the debates are being hosted by the cities’ public libraries.

“As librarians we pride ourselves in being vital community centers,” she said. “Having information publicly provided with the opportunity to have it thoughtfully considered is what libraries are all about, it’s not just books anymore.”

And, she said, “We understand the importance of this issue to our community. That is why we have been working hard to make sure that we have the necessary resources available for our customers to make an informed decision.”

The format of the debates will include opening statements by the debaters, followed by a series of questions posed by staffs from the libraries and the Sun Journal. In addition, each debater will be given an opportunity ask two questions of the opposing side. Questions will also be taken from the live audience and can also be submitted in advance to Judith Meyer, executive editor of the Sun Journal, at jmeyer@sunjournal.com.

The events will be recorded by Great Falls TV for later broadcast.

In addition to these debates, there are a couple of other public meetings scheduled to consider the merger question.

Lewiston will hold its formal public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, at the Lewiston Middle School. The hearing in Auburn was July 31.

On Tuesday, Oct. 3, Uplift LA — formerly known as Young Professionals of the Lewiston-Auburn Area and affiliated with Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce — will host a forum at The Dolard & Priscilla Gendron Franco Center, 46 Cedar St.

The Coalition Opposed to Lewiston-Auburn Consolidation will be represented by Matt Leonard; Kristy Phinney will represent One LA. Doors open at 5 p.m., and the forum will begin at 5:30 p.m. Matthew Shaw will serve as moderator.

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