Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Talks the right way to deal with secession


Copyright © 2006 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

Chebeague Islanders took a big step toward independence from the town of Cumberland thanks to a financial accord struck this weekend.

The tentative agreement on dividing up municipal assets represents a sharp change for Cumberland town councilors, who rejected an application for secession proffered by residents of Casco Bay's largest unbridged island on Nov. 29 by a 6-1 margin.

But sitting down face to face with your opponents, as the two sides did over the past few weeks and again on Saturday, can change your perspective.

This time Cumberland councilors unanimously approved an agreement that would bring them $1.3 million for town-owned real estate, a fire truck and a half-interest in property tax generated by 16 small islands for 50 years.

Town Manager William Shane predicted neither the tax rate nor the Cumberland school system would suffer.

Mainlanders will retain clamming and fishing rights on the islands. Basket and Sturdivant islands, which lie between Chebeague and the coast, will remain part of Cumberland.

Islanders still have work to do. First they must complete negotiations with the Cumberland-North Yarmouth school district, which they plan to leave.

Then they have a sales job to do in Augusta.

The Chebeague accord can offer a model for Peaks Islanders, who want to secede from Portland. Eleven years ago, Peaks Island residents lost their secession bid by one vote in the Maine Senate. Islanders delivered a stack of petitions to Portland last week tasking the City Council to hold a secession hearing to start the process again.

It's not enough that Peaks Island wants to secede. Island leaders will have to win cooperating support from the Portland City Council.

If they can't do that, their effort should not succeed.