With Early Vote Day over and State elections on November 3 just around the corner, political change is on the minds of Mainers and Bowdoin students. National issues and local policies have become the subject of debate, both on campus and in the Brunswick community.
The most heated debate surrounds Question 1, the answer to which will decide whether or not to veto the State legislature's decision to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine. The No on 1 campaign, a national movement, has been widely promoted by the Bowdoin College Democrats (BCD) and is supported by a large share of Bowdoin students.
Membership Director of the BCD Wilson Taylor '11 spoke on behalf of the group about the issue and some of the other important questions on the ballot.
"The Democrats' biggest efforts were Questions 1, 2 and 4. Question 1, of course, is to protect equal marriage rights in Maine. That is definitely a national issue as well as a state issue," said Taylor. "There is a sense that Maine is a leader in the country on this issue and, since the community is so small, the College really does have a huge impact."
Co-Chair of the Bowdoin College Republicans (BCR) John Cunningham '10, who spoke on behalf of the group, also commented on this issue.
"We have no official position on Question 1," said Cunningham. "There is some pretty strong disagreement between members of the BCR."
Taylor also commented on Question 4, the Maine Tax Relief Initiative, also known as TABOR 2, which will change the tax code.
"What it will do is to sort of make a uniform tax code more based on formulas, which makes it harder to respond to the needs of the state at the time," said Taylor. "It was instituted in Colorado and crippled their education and public service systems, such as the fire and police departments."
Cunningham shared an opposite view of TABOR 2, supported by the BCR.
"TABOR 2 is economically efficient and in the long-run it will be good for Mainers," said Cunningham. "It will bring greater prosperity. Maine has been struggling for a long time."
"They have an increasing elderly population and young people are leaving in droves. There isn't that much new business and the fiscal state of Maine is a complete disaster. TABOR 2 is a step towards a much sounder economic system," Cunningham added.
With such an important national issue like Question 1 on the ballot, there was concern by BCD, BCR and Bowdoin Mainers that some of the other questions, which are Maine specific, would be overlooked. Bowdoin student and resident of Scarborough, Maine, Melissa Anson '11 weighed in on student voting.
"I feel like some people are voting in Maine just because of Question 1 and the other questions don't have a lot to do with Bowdoin," said Anson. "I'm from Maine anyway, but if I were from out of state I would have trouble deciding and might want to vote in my hometown."
Cunningham echoed this sentiment when he commented on the lack of BCR participation in the "get out the vote" efforts on campus.
"We don't want to encourage uninformed participation," said Cunningham. "Any effort that will allow students to go to the polls and vote 'No' on 4 because it's the hip thing to do would be contrary to the economic interests of Maine."
Another prominent aspect of Tuesday's vote is the race for Town Councilor at Large between incumbent Joanne King and current council member Karen J. Klatt.
Both women have been involved in projects and decisions that directly affect Bowdoin students and are focused on appealing to Bowdoin students who make up a large part of their constituency.
King, who has served on the Town Council for the past six years, has been a major player in projects like the redistribution of the land from the Naval Air Base and the building of Maine Street Station.
King also was a main opponent of a 2008 ordinance that attempted to forbid unrelated people from sharing a home, which would make off-campus Bowdoin housing impossible.
"I was opposed to the ordinance that proposed the number of unrelated people that could live together," said King. "It didn't make sense on any level because it was un-enforceable and it was going to affect the whole community, as well as Bowdoin students"
Klatt, who was also on the council in 2008, was part of a team of sponsors who approved the ordinance.
"My main issue with it was the absentee landlord," said Klatt. "I have nothing against college students partying but you have to respect the neighborhood if you were going to live there. It wasn't so much the partying but the vulgar language they were hearing."
King also explained the plan, which she helped create as a member of the planning committee, for the large expanse of land left after the closing of the Naval Air Force Base.
"In the plan Bowdoin College has two hundred plus acres on the Harpswell side of the base and you will have some excellent opportunities for academic growth there," said King. "The long-term planning involves some environmental classes being able have hands-on experience with the protected species that live on the land."
Even though the plans have already been approved, Klatt had a different idea for the land.
"I would love to see that whole base become the biggest center for developing renewable energy," said Klatt. "We've got to look at that instead of fossil fuel. It would be great to put Bowdoin on the map as a center for renewable energy research."
While the two women differ on these issues, they both agree that the new Maine Street Station is a fantastic addition to Brunswick.
"Brunswick is perfect for being a hub for people getting to Maine," said Klatt. "Of course, for Bowdoin students to have rail as an option would be even better than the bus; we've got a good development going with the train station."
King expressed a similar opinion.
"It is exactly what the people in the community have asked for," she said.
King explained why Bowdoin students should vote for her for Town Councilor at Large, as well as what Bowdoin specific changes she would like to make.
"I think that a liaison between the BSG and the Brunswick Town Council is a fabulous idea," said King. "I value the role that college students have in this community. It's very important to me that the lines of communication stay open between the Town and the College."
Klatt also expressed her wish to engage with Bowdoin students about issues in the community.
"I have so many supporters who have great ideas and that is what I love about Brunswick," said Klatt. "I would love to somehow get the Bowdoin students to engage with the council and the town government."