On Nov. 29, the Mitchell Center hosted a talk on the role of municipal government in implementing state policy priorities. This session, held by Executive Director Cathy Conlow and Director of State & Federal Relations Kate Dufour of the Maine Municipal Association, was a part of the Sustainability Talk Series.
“The intent of this conversation is to talk about the municipality’s role in advancing state policies,” said Kate Dufour, Director of State & Federal Relations. “Municipal government is community.”
Municipalities are composed of local authorities within the community. In the beginning of the presentation, Dufour discussed the role of engagement in order to encourage municipalities to implement statewide policy principles. This relates to the idea that successful engagement relies on the community’s understanding and recognition of certain attributes of municipalities.
“Municipality has been relied upon for a large amount, and that list has grown over time,” Dufour said.
In each town there is a lot of reliance on the municipal government for local services that members of the community can use. Services that rely on municipal government include the police department, fire department, EMS services, public works, parks & recreations, tax assessment & collection, elections, and other general assistance. With everything that municipalities do for the community, they need to be more recognized and supported in every community.
“History has taught us that a once very sacred partnership is bountiful … Revenue sharing partners are one of the most fundamental partnerships,” Dufour said. “The state is going to have hard times, but we’re all in this together.”
Municipalities partner with the state in order to aid in revenue sharing, local road assistance programs, state aid for K-12 education and the increasing homestead exemption reimbursement. The state relies on the municipal governments to help advance state policies, and to do so we have to know who we are as a community.
“It’s important that your voices are heard. Because if we don’t hear a diverse group of people, we can’t accommodate everyone’s needs,” Dufour said. “Municipalities do the right thing. Gets back to that ingenuity and local control. How best to move communities forward … In order for us to advance state policies, we need to understand who we actually are … There’s a community for each and every one of us and that uniqueness is incredibly important.”
To conclude the presentation, Conlow and Dufour discussed the power of local ingenuity. In this respect, it is primarily the community that makes things happen. The decision to not get involved is also a decision that affects how the municipalities can best serve the community.
“Despite all the challenges, burdens and responsibilities… [m]unicipalities are doing great work … At the crux of sustainability is equity and mutual accountability. We’re all affected by this so it’s important to all work together, to all work in the same direction to get our goals met,” Dufour said. “Municipal government is the best form of government there is. Closest to the people, largest non-partisan, where people get work done.”