By Kathleen M Norton — Thomaston Resident
Why would people be interested in a small town election? Because in Thomaston, Maine, there is a case of voter suppression and deafness on the part of the Select Board to the demands made by the community at a recent Public Hearing on June 1.
In that Public Hearing, residents (voters) made clear that they wanted articles contained in the Annual Town Meeting Warrant relating to Thomaston Green moved to a secret ballot vote in November. The Select Board was mute.
Why would voters want this? Because in 2022, there was a very divisive and contentious vote about Thomaston Green. Citizens initiated a SECRET ballot question for the June vote, asking if the Green should be a permanent park. (It’s been a park for the last 21 years because voters have voted down previous proposals.) The Town countered with its own question, asking if voters should allow the Town to decide what to do with the Green. (True without the vote.)
Result: Confusion. The citizens’ initiative lost by a mere 22 votes out of over 740 cast. The town was divided and still is today. Some lost friends, and moved away as a result.
Today, the Green is being threatened by three referendum ballot questions at the Town Meeting, Wednesday, June 14 at 6:00 p.m. at Thomaston Municipal Building.
- One splits the Green in half.
- Another is to build a new fire/EMS station on up to 2.7 acres.
- The last wants to sell to up to 1.5 acres to Knox Clinic, a volunteer-based non-profit health care provider.
Here is a Letter to the Editor I wrote for PenBay Pilot that sums up what happened since last fall.
The story gets juicier. Here is an article by News Center Maine written in 2016 about residents petitioning to stop a Dollar General from building on Thomaston Green. I reference this article because it cites Diane Giese as one of the petition’s creators saying that “It’s a very simple, lovely place and the green is gorgeous.”
Fast forward nine years. Ms. Giese is now the Chair of the Thomaston Select Board. Her views and positions about the Green have evolved and today, she is the biggest proponent of developing the Green. Not only is she the Chair of the Select Board but also sits on the Economic Development Committee (EDC). Together, they have pushed through these ballot questions ignoring process and residents’ voices.
Note: the Town of Thomaston (Economic Development Committee & Select Board) and Knox Clinic successfully got $1.2 million through the American Rescue Plan Act through Knox County, provided Knox Clinic build in Thomaston. Most residents had no knowledge of this partnership. With this funding, the clinic’s goal is to become a federally qualified health center which would change its current operating model.
During last year’s election, Knox Clinic was actively worked to sink the citizen’s initiative with Facebook postings and speaking at the Public Hearing. And, members of Thomaston’s Economic Development Committee, are also on the clinic’s Steering Committee. In fact one of them is running for Select Board now!
Our country is in danger of losing its representative form of government to those who favor authoritarianism. Or, rule by the few over the many. In this little town of 2,800, the few are the same people who’ve been pulling strings here for years. And, now, with only the people who can come to a Town Meeting, they are forever going to endanger this landmark property.
It is voter suppression. Last year’s Green vote had over 740 people participate. Before that, secret ballots were used to vote down two housing proposals for the Green. In November 22’s gubernatorial election, there were more than 1,400 voters, 400 of them absentee ballots. Now, the Green’s future will be decided by less than a 1/10 of the eligible voters.