BANGOR, Maine — Public safety and affordable housing were just some of the issues the candidates running in the Bangor City Council special election have raised.
Five candidates are running for one open seat as voters head to the polls Tuesday. The winner of the election will fill the spot left open when Sarah Dubay died from cancer last fall during her first city council term.
Voters can cast their ballots at the Cross Insurance Center from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Smith said improving public safety is an issue he would focus on if elected.
"We need to support the police, support firefighters, support our EMTs," Smith told NEWS CENTER MAINE. "I'm a safety guy. Safety is the most important thing no matter what you do. You never want a day to end in tragedy."
Besides public safety, Smith said he would implement citizen participation surveys as a councilor.
"When you do these surveys, it gets the citizens involved," he said. "They feel like they have a voice in what's going on in the city. It takes some time, but if you do it right, it works."
Tyler Rowe said one of Bangor's biggest issues is affordable housing options.
"I would propose the 'Building a Better Bangor Plan,'" he said as a way to combat the housing crisis. "[The plan] would use a portion of our $20 million in ARPA funds to give $100,000 grants to would-be developers and local Bangor residents who would like to be landlords to build four-unit or larger housing projects."
Another issue Rowe said he would be a leader on is infrastructure.
"I'd make sure the council is aware of issues with potholes, sidewalks, the basic necessities a city needs to respond to," Rowe explained. "Making sure our public works department is well-staffed is very important to me."
Stephen Brough said the city needs more sustainable housing options.
"We need housing with enough open space in it to be able to provide food and some of the things we need as individuals, not just in terms of a place to live, but a place to actually stay in and be somewhat self-sufficient," Brough said.
Brough also said he wants to change what he feels is a public perception that the city council doesn't listen to the city's residents.
"I know they [listen] because I pay attention," he said. "Many other residents of this city don't take advantage of how we communicate and, if elected, I will spend part of my stipend on marketing myself as a council member via postcards, emails — things that we don't do now to try and inform residents of how we conduct city business."
Michael Maberry said providing more affordable housing options in Bangor starts with focusing on vacant homes being held by out-of-state banks.
"There are registration fees every six months for those individuals and out-of-state banks to pay. I think we need a sliding scale, and the longer those [homes] sit vacant, the longer they sit in disarray or disrepair, that price for registration needs to increase," he said. "We need to really hold their hand and find ways to bring those buildings back up to code and use."
He added the city needs to look at all options on the table to address the issue of affordable housing.
"There is a working group focused on affordable housing here in the city, and I think the group needs to be given more license and more resources to tackle these issues," Maberry said. "And this will be the first area I will focus on."
The message from Joseph Leonard's campaign also focuses on affordable housing. He said Bangor could benefit from looking at how other cities are taking on the issue.
"Atlanta actually instituted a clause where they actually limited not only the number of homes an individual can own in the city, but they actually made it very clear that if you are going to own multiple homes, one of them has to be a residence," he said. "I really like that idea."
Leonard said whoever gets elected will have an important role to play in the creation of the city's comprehensive plan.
"We want to make sure there are no major roadblocks to make life easier for people if there's a new application, 3D printers, or new innovative technologies we can bring into our neighborhoods," he said. "We want to make sure the comprehensive plan opens up an area of approach where they're not going to be given a hurdle to go over before we can utilize them."