Mayor Jonathan LaBonte and challenger Peter Letourneau filled out Sun Journal campaign profiles last month and excerpts from their answers are printed below. To read the full text of their responses and those from all the other candidates for Lewiston and Auburn offices, go to www.sunjournal.com/election/2015.

Name:

Jonathan LaBonte

Email address:

[email protected]

Facebook:

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www.facebook.com/jonathanplabonte

Other social media?

www.jonathanlabonte.com; Twitter: mayorlabonte

Occupation or primary source of income:

Director, Governor’s Office of Policy and Management

Education:

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High school, St. Dominic Academy; B.S. chemical engineering, UMaine; Graduate Studies in Public Administration, UMaine

Family information:

I have a girlfriend, Jen, who teaches at Lewiston High School and two cats (Rawrie and Sofia) rescued from the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society. My parents (Paul and Darlene) and my older sister Nicole and her fiance, Joe, all live in Auburn. My Nana, Mary, also lives in Auburn at Clover Manor, and she likely has the most active social life of all of us.

Public offices sought or held:

Androscoggin County commissioner, 2008-2011; mayor of the city of Auburn, 2011 to present.

Why are you running for office? Why should voters select you for this job?

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Auburn is already a great city with great people, great teachers, great staff, a strong business community, unique natural resources and infrastructure.

We need to elevate the bar and move forward. After spending the last four years building relationships with staff, key community partners, state and federal officials and the business community, I can see that Auburn is turning a corner and is poised for some very big things in the next two years. I’m prepared to help make those happen.

What do you like about the city budget passed this year, and what don’t you like? Was it too high, too low, just right?

The budget, given many considerations, was a decent one that kept any city spending growth under the rate of inflation. The bigger challenge though, that we have been stuck in for decades, is an economic development environment that has many southern Maine communities far outpacing us on growth in real estate value.

Since property taxes are our major source of revenue for critical services and to invest in the classroom for our next generation, not discussing why these decades-old approaches that aren’t working are still in place is costing us.

With a limited budget and knowing what you know now, what would be your top spending priority among these three services: road repair, education or public safety? Why?

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Education should be the top spending priority to grow our city, knowing that everything from pre-K access to workforce development and adult education play a critical role in attracting families, sustaining businesses and improving quality of life.

The reality is, there would never be enough property tax money to fulfill all that we need in this area. To spend in this priority area, we should investigate creative ways to use existing city resources, and build partnerships with businesses, the community college and university system (and others), so that our increased investment draws down nonproperty tax money.

What should the mayor’s role be in Auburn city government and how will that determine your actions in and out of City Council meetings?

While some may describe the mayor’s role as purely ceremonial, I know that by simply reading the City Charter much more is expected of a mayor and am proud to be fulfilling those duties.

Beyond chairing the official business meetings of the City Council, the mayor is called on to coordinate actions of boards and committees to advance the city’s interests. This involves communication with staff and city councilors serving on committees to ensure accountability to the city’s interests.

Court Street could be narrowed from four travel lanes to two in 2016. Is that a good idea or not, and why do you feel that way?

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If the data proved out that traffic flow would be balanced with a safer environment for pedestrians and the addition of on-street parking, then a summer trial period would take place and a new assessment done after the trial. If any changes are made to streets in the downtown area in 2016, it will be because they were shown to be good ideas worth testing, presented with all of the facts and with engagement of residents, property owners and businesses.

I say let’s gather all of the facts and make a decision on a trial based on those and not just emotion.

Name:

Peter Letourneau

Email address:

[email protected]

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Facebook:

www.facebook.com/peterletourneauformayor

Other social media?

Twitter: peteyfromaubur4

Occupation or primary source of income:

Retired

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Education:

Attended Bentley College

Family information:

I am lucky to have a fabulous wife, Sandy Nyberg, two grown children; Peter Jr. and Rene, and two adult step-children, Jennifer Kimble and the much-missed Thomas Nyberg who passed in a motor vehicle accident. Also, the family dog, Daisy, who is an important part of our empty nest as other dog and cat lovers can attest.

Public offices sought or held:

Currently the Ward 1 incumbent on the Auburn School Committee. I am seeking the office of mayor of Auburn.

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Why are you running for office? Why should voters select you for this job?

The job is what is properly called a “soft mayor,” that is a person who — per the city charter — has four functions, with the key work being to facilitate City Council meetings, to promote this great city, and to provide an official presence at celebratory events.

The current mayor regales in telling us of his having “instructed staff” and “directed staff” ad nauseam. It is not the function of the mayor to boss around the fine management and staff we have in the city of Auburn. He just does not understand how to be mayor in this form of government.

My election will go a long way to better governance in Auburn as my question to our employees will be “How can I improve your day?”.

If our voters truly want a bully in the mayor’s office, then they should keep the one they have now.

What do you like about the city budget passed this year, and what don’t you like? Was it too high, too low, just right?

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I think we spend about the right amount of money, but it is clear that our spending on education per student is well below other cities in southern Maine, and that is a significant advantage to those other cities in attracting child-rearing age parents.

Zillow rates Auburn schools very low in how they compare to other districts, and that is a site that our younger citizens rely on for comparisons. Thus, we need to look at increasing the school budget, especially as regarding the condition of our facilities.

Edward Little High School’s building is a disgrace, and we should be more effectively championing a new EL at the state level, realizing that 10 percent or so of the costs will be borne by Auburn taxpayers. The real shame here is the City Council and the School Committee not working on the education budget earlier and in a more harmonious way.

With a limited budget and knowing what you know now, what would be your top spending priority among these three services: road repair, education or public safety? Why?

Education. Per my prior statement, the education budget is not sufficient to build and maintain needed facilities. If we fail to provide a good education to our young people, we will not be attracting couples in their twenties, thirties and forties to Auburn as they will seek to educate their children elsewhere and I do not blame them.

What should the mayor’s role be in Auburn City Government and how will that determine your actions in and out of City Council meetings?

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A mayor who can shut up once in a while would be refreshing.

I will be available to facilitate City Council meetings, to assist our employees in promoting this wonderful city, and to attend events. I will treat citizens, employees and council members with respect.

For certain, there will be far fewer closed door “executive sessions” where the public is shut out from seeing what is going on with their city. For example, discussion of potential land purchases for the new high school are currently done behind closed doors. The argument being that letting the public know where we may be thinking of buying property will raise the price of that property. That is absurd. If we have two or more properties under consideration, it will set up a competition between current land owners to have us select their property, thus driving down total cost.

How dumb is it that we have gone through three city managers and three ice arena general managers in 3 1/2 years? This is what you get when the mayor insists on his overbearing approach to our employees.

Court Street could be narrowed from four travel lanes to two in 2016. Is that a good idea or not, and why do you feel that way?

When the award is given out for the dumbest idea of 2015, this one may not win but it will surely be a finalist.

Further, not bothering to discuss this with the city fathers in Lewiston is outrageous. This imperiousness needs to come to a halt, and with a bully in the mayor’s office it will not.


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