For council: Vancil, Stoknes, Doerschuk

Put aside the environment, at least for the next few

paragraphs. The defining challenge facing the next City Council will be following through on recommendations for revitalization of our downtown core, as envisioned through the Winslow Tomorrow planning process. We need community leaders savvy on the issues and ready to make tough decisions that will shape our community and cultural hub for decades to come.

The choices in two council races are obvious – Debbie Vancil and Kjell Stoknes earn the Review’s strong endorsement from the north and central wards, respectively. The third contested seat, also in the central ward, is more evenly matched, and John Doerschuk earns our nod.

In the central ward, position 5 race, Kjell Stoknes boasts excellent professional and community credentials, and would be a moderate and welcome addition to the council. A retired urban planner and appraiser, he brings an unusually thorough understanding of land use and municipal finance. Stoknes chaired three different committees during the Winslow Tomorrow planning process, making him uniquely qualified to help the council put downtown revitalization into effect. His opponent, the undeniably colorful Doug Smith, has platformed largely on his unhappiness over the ferry maintenance yard and a handful of other hot-button issues. But while raising a lot of questions, he has offered few answers. Stoknes is the more professional, thoughtful candidate, and the clear choice in this race.

In the other central ward seat, position 4, voters must choose between incumbent Bill Knobloch and challenger John Doerschuk. We’re generally loathe to replace a competent incumbent, but we think Doerschuk – who has been involved in parking and other downtown issues for years – would be a dynamic voice for Winslow revitalization and the interests of local merchants. As a caveat, we should note that both candidates seem skittish about committing public funds to Winslow improvements – laudable from the standpoint of fiscal prudence, but also raising concerns that needed investment in our downtown core will get bogged down with more “process.” And in fairness, Knobloch did distinguish himself in his first term on budget and capital facilities issues. It’s a tough call, and voters may want to poke and prod the candidates further before casting a ballot; the community would be ably served by either gentleman.

And now, back to the environment. North ward incumbent and current council chair Debbie Vancil has been targeted for ouster by a particularly virulent group of no-growthers, who want to punish her for being insufficiently doctrinaire on critical areas protections. Feel free to ignore them; longtime islander Vancil was working on environmental causes here when most of today’s no-growthers still lived somewhere else. Ten years ago, it was shoreline habitat protection; more recently, she founded the Community Forestry Commission to champion tree retention, and the list goes on. Her years on the Planning Commission and the council give her a thorough understanding of current issues. We don’t agree with Vancil all the time, but she does her homework, asks tough questions and casts an informed vote regardless of what’s before the council.

Her opponent, Frank Renna, fails to inspire. By his own admission, the recent New Jersey transplant entered the council primary race at the behest of others; he bailed out when it became a three-way contest, then jumped back in when he unexpectedly finished second. Renna has earned the endorsement of at least one environmental group – curious, since he has no track record here, and nobody knows how he would come down on intricate legislation. In a candidate interview, Renna showed no specific understanding of the issues facing our community, falling back on such bromides as “the island faces a critical time” and “the council needs teamwork.” Yawn. While no doubt personally well-intentioned, Renna’s candidacy looks propped up by special interests unhappy with Vancil. Again, stick with the incumbent, who’s earned another four years.

We should also note that stepping onto the council unopposed from the south ward is Christopher Snow. He boasts a good resume of community involvement with the economic council, and brings an unusually useful background: a career in diplomacy. Snow doesn’t need our endorsement, but he certainly has it.

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