As I write this column in early April, I thought it might be helpful to provide an update on a number of MMA activities, but as a lead-in, I’d like to share a brief observation with you. Perhaps this is more of a lament over the loss of civility in our everyday lives and civic discourse.
Many of you may have had occasion to call the MMA Legal Services Department. Each year Legal Services responds to over 8,000 inquiries from municipal officials. The attorneys in Legal Services do their utmost to respond promptly, but this can be very challenging at times, especially during town meeting season when many of the calls have a particular urgency. Electronic communications (FAXes and e-mails) have also heightened expectations for an even quicker response.
In addition to the large number of calls from municipal officials, Legal Services regularly receives calls from citizens seeking information. Due to our attorney-client relationship with our municipal members, MMA Legal Services is not in a position to respond to these citizen inquiries. Mary Merrifield, our Legal Services Receptionist, strives to handle these calls as politely and diplomatically as possible, but her explanation is not always well received. I was particularly troubled to learn that an angry citizen recently called her a “useless twit”. Although she took this in stride as part of the territory, this comment was demeaning and offensive.
Unfortunately, this type of behavior is a reflection of the loss of civility and common courtesy we are experiencing in our society. As municipal officials, you encounter this phenomenon on a daily basis. For me, it’s a reminder of the importance of leading by example and treating others with the same respect and courtesy we would like to receive. For us at MMA, we are dedicated to assisting you, our members, do your very challenging job of serving your citizens. We are committed to doing this with the highest levels of professionalism and excellence.
Here’s a brief update on various happenings around MMA:
Advocacy - State & Federal Relations (SFR) is tracking close to 30% of the 1800 bills printed thus far this legislative session, with several hundred more expected. The MMA Executive Committee met with Governor Baldacci on March 29, focusing much of the discussion on the proposals for restructuring K-12 education administration & governance. The Executive Committee also underscored the importance of LD 804, the legislation proposed by a coalition of organizations including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, MMA, Maine Education Association, Maine Hospital Association and the Maine Service Center Coalition.
Convention –Due to concerns about declining attendance at the annual convention, the MMA Executive Committee and staff have been seeking input on possible changes in the length (2 ½ days) and format. Based on comments and suggestions we received from an e-mail survey, a meeting with affiliate group representatives, and the “Front Porch” regional meetings conducted to date, the MMA Executive Committee accepted staff’s recommendation that the 2007 MMA convention be modified to a 1 ½ day format – Wednesday and Thursday, October 3 & 4, at the Augusta Civic Center. The basic outline of the convention will be to have exhibitors set up on Wednesday morning (this will avoid the cost of renting the Civic Center auditorium on Tuesday), with the convention opening with a noon luncheon on Wednesday and concluding on Thursday. MMA will convene a Convention Planning Committee in May to assist in mapping out the more detailed schedule and program.
MMA Nominating Committee – The MMA Nominating Committee will be considering candidates for MMA Vice President and three seats on the MMA Executive Committee. In addition to a mailing to each municipality, information on the Nominating Committee can be obtained on the MMA website (www.memun.org) or by contacting Theresa Chavarie at the MMA office (email@example.com; 1-800-452-8786; 623-8428). MMA encourages interested officials to notify the Nominating Committee of your interest in being considered.
We appreciate your support and input through your participation in last year’s membership survey and our series of regional “Front Porch” meetings. Thank you for your commitment to public service.