Tuesday, March 7, 2006


Chebeagers deserve credit for following the process

Residents of Chebeague Island deserve commendation for their conscientious and diligent efforts to follow every legal detail in regard to their campaign to secede from Cumberland to form their own town.

Right now, that includes not spending any state money on the process, which is just the way it should be. The bill authorizing secession, LD 1735, carries no fiscal note. When it emerges Wednesday from a work session by the Legislature's State and Local Government Committee, that status should remain unchanged.

Secession movements should have a limited application in Maine. The best cases for them have typically been made by self-contained island communities such as Long Island, which separated from Portland in 1993. Now some residents of Peaks Island have begun the secession process, too.

Nevertheless, secession is a two-way street, and only remains appropriate when the parent community approves of it, as well. A process that severs long-standing ties (Chebeague has been part of Cumberland for 185 years) shouldn't be seen to benefit just one side in any such proceeding.

Typically, fiscal issues loom large in such campaigns, and Chebeague has promised to divide up its debts and assets equitably with its school district and parent community.

The bill includes a provision by which the islanders would compensate Cumberland for 50 percent of the property taxes now paid by the 16 small islands that would join the future town if the bill passes.

That commitment demonstrates the principle that it shouldn't take a civil war to secede if the process is rational and fair to all sides.

While not everyone in either community has to be happy about what's transpiring, the fact that majorities agree with it is precisely how democracy is supposed to work.