The History of MMA
(from Maine Townsman, September 1986)
by Kenneth L. Roberts Assistant Editor
Under the headline "May We Introduce Ourselves?" the New England Townsman in Vol. 1 No.1 of January 1939 stated, "The Maine Municipal Association is the official organization of the cities, towns and plantations of the State of Maine, united for purposes of cooperation and mutual benefit."
The editorial then made this significant point:
"As established in its present form two years ago, its membership is made up of municipalities as such, not individual officials - a fundamental distinction between this and other organizations for the improvement of local government."
The fledgling association pledged to investigate, study, discuss, and recommend improvements and efficiencies in local government; to provide an interchange of ideas, experiences, and expert advice; to collect, compile, and distribute information about municipal administration; to advocate and support legislation beneficial to the administration of municipal affairs and to oppose legislation injurious thereto; to promote the education and training of municipal employees and officials; and to do any and all things necessary and proper for the benefit of the cities, towns, and plantations of the state in the administration of their local affairs.
On this, the 50th Anniversary of the Maine Municipal Association, it is heartening to look back and know that in the beginning the Association did its job, kept doing it year in and year out, and is today stronger in membership support, financially, and in its ability to be an advocate for the local governments of Maine, than at any time in its proud history.
The Maine Municipal Association was formed in October of 1936 at a time when America was in deep trouble. That the Association was an immediate success is the highest tribute to its leadership of municipal officials and the staff which provided the services so desperately needed by its members.
Forerunners to the MMA were the Maine Assessors' Association formed in 1916, and the Maine Municipal Officers' Association formed in 1931. Though organized less than a year, by 1932 the MMOA had established organizational units in all 16 counties in Maine.
The two groups met for a two-day joint convention in 1932 in Augusta and formed the Maine Municipal Officers and Assessors Association, which continued for four years as an essential organization of individual municipal officials as a strong force for good municipal government.
A committee of the Association met in 1935 and recommended hiring an executive secretary to lead the organization and the appointment of an Executive Committee to act for the Association between meetings.
These recommendations were adopted at the convention of the group in 1936 in Augusta, at which time the name of the organization became the Maine Municipal Association, and its membership became the organized municipalities of the state.
Roy W. Owsley, then the field consultant of the Kentucky Municipal League, was hired on February 2, 1936 as the Executive Secretary and the first full-time paid employee of the MMA.
When Owsley arrived on the job, he found that 15 plantations, towns and cities had already joined the Association, and the Association's balance was $1,562.75, on which he could build.
Plantation 21 had been the first municipality to join the MMA, Windham the first town, and Waterville the first city. Owsley came on the scene during a legislative session, immediately started issuing regular weekly legislative bulletins and providing other services, and by the end of 1937 there were 97 municipal members. Total dues from membership was $4,255 for the year.
That first year the MMA office was in the Hallowell City Hall, and Owsley and his staff of one (then Miss Ethel Nichols) handled legal and management inquiries: sending letters, pamphlets, reports, rulings, charters, ordinances, rules, regulations, whatever was needed, to waiting municipalities; maintained contact with several national organizations to provide further assistance to Maine's plantations, towns, and cities, serving as the clearinghouse for much needed information and experience; and issued bulletins, pamphlets, newsletters, and manuals, including the first Maine Assessors' Manual and the Maine Tax Collectors' Manual.
It was an auspicious beginning, and so impressed local government officials that by the end of 1938 there were 165 member municipalities, and a year later there were 219 members of the MMA. Total income for the year 1939 had reached $11,535.31 through mid-October.
During the legislative session of 1939, MMA was able to record these results: 12 of 19 bills included in the Association's general legislative program were enacted; 17 bills favored by MMA but not part of its package were all enacted: five amendments to legislation suggested by MMA were all adopted; and the Association actively opposed 27 bills, not one of which was enacted.
At a meeting of the Executive Committee on December 28, 1938, it had been decided to substitute for the monthly "Maine Municipal News Bulletin," the more extended publication the New England Townsman.
It was another wise decision: the magazine provided a most attractive medium for the dissemination of important information, and was paying its own way financially through advertising revenues.
The MMA had moved in 1939 to the Depositors Trust Company building in Hallowell, across the street from Hallowell City Hall, to provide more space for a growing Association staff that by 1939 also included a field agent, and additional services.
In 1939 it was possible for the first MMA President Elmer W. Campbell, mayor of Hallowell, to report to the convention, "And now that my term of office as president of this splendid Association for the past two years is nearing an end I sincerely believe that in the future there will be a continuous increase in the services provided, and these services will be of increasing value to all member municipalities. . ." More than 800 delegates attended that 1939 MMA Convention.
In February of 1940, MMA on the editorial page of its monthly publication reported that the Association had a staff of six persons, modern office quarters, a membership of 230 communities, "a comfortable balance in the bank, and the respect and good will of thousands of public officials and citizens of Maine who are interested in good government."
The magazine went on to say, "The remarkable growth of this organization for the mutual benefit of the cities, towns and plantations of the state is evidence of the real need for such an agency, and is a tribute to the courage, energy, intelligence, loyalty and vision of the municipal officials of the state who assisted in planning and inaugurating the Maine Municipal Association and in fostering it through the first hard years. With such an auspicious beginning, surely the organization will continue to serve Maine municipalities long and well."
In this early period, several events of significance took place in which the Association was involved:
A program was enacted providing old age assistance to Maine citizens. The bill which enacted this assistance was in two parts, the first providing highway and bridge construction and maintenance funds in the amount of $800,000 a year to be divided among the state's cities, towns, and plantations. The second part required municipalities to pay old age assistance funds to the state in amounts not to exceed $800,000 per year. Thus was created a system for taking care of the older citizens of the state, who were in desperate need, through the municipal offices without the cost being assessed to property taxes collected by the municipalities.
In 1939, the Maine Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a part of the 1933 Maine law creating the Board of Emergency Municipal Finance. That Board had been created in severe Depression times as a drastic measure providing for the taking over by the state the financial affairs of municipalities in utter distress. The portion of the state law which forbade the commencement and maintenance of suits against municipalities taken over by the Board was held to be unconstitutional. At least seven municipalities already in a grave financial crisis, were now further exposed.
In 1933, Congress created the Public Works Administration (PWA) to finance thousands of construction and maintenance projects that eventually touched all but three of 3,073 counties in the country with roads, bridges, sewer systems, airports, schools, water systems, filtration plants, and disposal plants. Most towns in the state of Maine were the beneficiaries of that economic life-saving program.
The Public Works Administration was created and continued beyond the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which was then considered strictly an anti-Depression measure. The PWA pumped more than $16 million into Maine communities, firms, and employees from 1933 to 1938 alone, for the construction of more than 146 projects affecting in one way or another nearly every organized municipality in Maine. The May, 1939 issue of the New England Townsman is a definitive history of that vital federal program and its accomplishments here in Maine.
In May of 1939, municipalities in Maine were granted the authority by the Legislature to enact zoning ordinances; in July of that year Lewiston and Auburn were planning to add radio equipment for the use of their police departments; and municipalities were borrowing an average of about $40,000 a year to keep afloat, and issuing refunding bonds.
Topics of discussion at that highly attended convention of MMA in 1939 included the best methods of organizing a volunteer fire department; how to reduce municipal insurance costs; the organization and functions of town budget committees; and the then very active Overseers of the Poor were considering how to get supplies to state paupers, the law governing pauper notices and denials, and practical suggestions for reducing local welfare costs.
In December of 1939, MMA conducted the first of a series of training schools throughout the state. The first one was in Presque Isle in Aroostook County - in a driving snowstorm with icy roads. Representatives from 46 towns showed up anyway. The 135 municipal officials who attended discussed calling and conducting a town meeting, the law of pauper settlements and notices, legal remedies for the collection of taxes, and how to improve local tax assessments.
In February of 1940, the New England Townsmanreported that on February 14 the MMA Executive Committee had accepted "with utmost regret" the resignation of Roy H. Owsley as Executive Secretary, and had appointed James M. Jackson as his replacement. Owsley had been the key staff person in shaping and building the service program of the MMA during its first three years. His record of accomplishment in Maine, and previously in organizing and being assistant secretary, managing editor, and field consultant for the Kentucky Municipal League for eight years, had given him a national reputation. He left MMA to become manager of the Washington, D.C. office of the American Municipal Association, the national federation of the state leagues of municipalities which later became the National League of Cities. Jackson was a native of Bath and a graduate of the University of Maine. He had been serving the four years previous to his appointment as MMA's second Executive Secretary, as an engineer with the State Bureau of Health.
In the summer of 1940, Maine's town and city managers held an all-day meeting with the executive director of the International City Managers Association to discuss mutual problems and concerns. The Maine Chiefs of Police Association was formed in July.
The October 1940 Townsman recorded that construction was being observed with great interest at the Bath Iron Works and the Brunswick Naval Air Station. An end of the year article noted that the City of Auburn had a successful experience in operating a city store. The city had organized and operated a city store solely for the purpose of keeping relief costs down. Persons on relief had more than 115 items in the store from which to choose, they had received more supplies for less cost, and the city had saved money.
Articles and notes in the Townsman issues of 1941 were reporting that the City of Portland had obtained a $1 million tax anticipation note from the Canal National Bank at a rate of .072 percent; that South Portland had a model two-way radio system serving its police, fire, and public works departments; that the Hallowell City Council had appropriated the sum not to exceed $200 for the purchase of a prowl car for the police department; that the federal Works Progress Administration was spending $150 million nationwide, and $8.9 million in Maine for airport construction at Bangor, Caribou, Dexter, Eastport, Fort Kent, Millinocket, Presque Isle, Princeton, Rockland, Brunswick, Sanford, Pittsfield, and Lewiston/Auburn; that South Portland had a model ordinance for the regulation of house trailers; that training of public officials and employees, available through the MMA, increases competence and builds morale, is fundamental to the future effectiveness and stability of democratic institutions, is one of the most effective methods of making democracy work; that relief from the severe burden of property taxation was being urged of the Legislature; that problems with the Old Age Assistance program were being discussed with state government; and that civilian defense programs were important for Maine's municipalities (especially drawing on the experience of British cities).
The January 1941 issue reported the resignation of Executive Secretary James Jackson to enter the field of engineering, and the appointment of Ernest H. Johnson, MMA field consultant, as acting Executive Secretary. Johnson graduated from Dartmouth College, Northeastern University Law School, and had practiced law in Gardiner. He was appointed MMA field consultant in May of 1940.
The Association's Fifth Annual Convention was held in Augusta in 1941, with principal emphasis given to discussion of municipal finance, and meetings of selectmen, treasurers, road commissioners, overseers, tax collectors, and treasurers. Attendance at the Convention totaled about 600, with 303 attending the banquet at Cony High School. Banquet tickets were $1.
Everyone's world changed on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor.
"Budgets Will Have to Shrink" was the headline of an article in January's Townsman of 1942, detailing projected shortages of materials and supplies for the critical war effort. Materials and supplies and equipment could only be obtained on a priority list, and it was detailed in the same issue. Encouragement was being given to investing municipal trust funds in Defense Bonds. Labor was being found as difficult to obtain as materials and supplies.
In February of 1942 the appointment of Philip S. Habermann, assistant secretary to the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, as the new Executive Secretary of MMA was announced, effective March 1. Habermann held a number of key positions with the Wisconsin League, and brought to Maine his considerable experience in municipal league management and his hobbies of hunting and fishing. Acting Executive Secretary Ernest H. Johnson resumed his position as field consultant.
In April of 1942 there were 263 municipal members of the MMA, and in May a membership committee of current members in each of the 16 counties was appointed. By the end of the year, there were 288 municipal members of MMA.
May brought bad news to towns relative to increasing shortages of every imaginable commodity. Use of asphalt and tar was drastically curtailed; gasoline and rubber shortages reduced use of municipal vehicles, including those used in emergencies; the decrease in gasoline tax and registration fees forced the state to suspend highway and bridge apportionments to Maine's municipalities; homeowners and municipal officials were being urged to turn back to coal for heat, oil was too precious to the war effort; and many roads were being closed for the winter season to drastically reduce the necessity of snow plowing.
By April of 1943 shortages and curtailments were so great that the Association cancelled its annual spring meeting that had been scheduled for Bangor. Instead, the Association scheduled 10 regional, one-day training sessions for assessors. A total of 254 local officials attended the 10 sessions representing 148 municipalities, out of a total of 346 member municipalities, as of June 1943.
MMA Executive Secretary Philip S. Habermann was granted a leave of absence in June of 1943 to accept a Commission in the U.S. Navy.
Throughout 1943 articles in the Townsman urged municipalities to begin planning for the post-war period, especially in the area of public works which had been so neglected for the war effort. While only two years earlier more than 100 Maine municipalities were said to be in such dire financial straits they might not avoid being taken over by the State, artificial wartime economic stimulation was being reflected in most municipal financial sheets in 1943. That year the Legislature provided for the creation of municipal planning boards, and for municipalities to create capital reserve funds. Municipal officials were urged to take the "post-war" out of planning and get on with sound planning for the future.
In November of 1943 Ernest Johnson, who had once again moved to Executive Secretary when Habermann was granted leave in June, was also granted leave of absence to enter the service.
At this point, for the first time, the name Ethel N. Kelley appears as the editor of the Townsman and manager of the MMA. She had held nearly every title and done virtually every job in the Association since becoming the group's second full-time employee in 1937. The "boys" were off to war, and "Kelley" had a job to do, and got it done. Did she ever. By June of 1944, MMA had 358 members.
The year 1944 was one of superlatives for most Maine municipalities. Many towns reported ending their fiscal years in the black or with surpluses for the first time in many years; any number of towns were voting to invest their new found wealth in War Bonds; many towns were taking or considering action to adopt the manager form of government; a host of communities were forming committees, setting up reserve funds, or otherwise planning for the post-war period; the Association mailed its new manual of tax collection procedures to nearly 360 member municipalities; and members of the Maine Town and City Management Association were told at their annual meeting that Maine topped the nation with 55 official manager cities and towns, with Michigan coming in second, but no number given.
Management of town forests was an important local government function during this period and many articles appeared in the Townsman and other municipal publications. The January 1945 Townsman reported that the Troy Town Forest had been established in 1940 consisting of 963 acres on 12 lots. From March 1940 to December 1944 the town had expended $8,016.27 for cutting, yarding, etc., at the forest, which had produced an income of $10,915.14, for a net return in a little less than four years of $2,898.87.
MMA listed its manuals available dealing with the municipal calendar, town meetings, elections, tax collection, assessing, zoning, and welfare. It was also reported that the Association's membership was at an all-time high of 374, and would have been 377 but three member towns had been taken over by the State Board of Emergency Municipal Finance.
Assessors were reading in the Townsman that the appraisal of luxury residences for tax purposes was one of their most difficult problems. Municipal officials generally were being advised that MMA Legal Counsel (a one-person staff at that time) was so overburdened by legal inquiries that all future requests would have to be in writing to the Association office. Counsel was said to be spending too much time giving free advice to non-member municipalities.
The Association held its first post-war, and its ninth annual Convention in November of 1945, reporting a total membership of 380 cities, towns and plantations. It was further reported that of 41 states with municipal leagues, only seven had larger memberships and all of those were formed many years before MMA. It was also reported that at the time the Association staff consisted of three - Ethel N. Kelley and her assistant, Mrs. Margaret Driscoll, in the Hallowell office, and legal counsel Francis W. Sullivan based in Portland.
Local governments were reported to be operating with minimum personnel as well and looking forward to return of the men from military service to resume their roles in government service.
. . . which Ernest Johnson did in January of 1946 to his capacity as Acting Executive Secretary. Ethel N. Kelley and Mrs. Driscoll continued to work at the Association, and Phil Habermann had decided not to return to the Association following the end of his leave of absence for military service. Ethel Kelley had successfully managed the Association, its publications, its legislative program, and all its other services, for more than two years.
Solid waste disposal received top billing in the first issue of the Association's publication for 1946. "Many of our city and town fathers are plagued by the eternal problem of garbage and rubbish collection and safe disposal of same," it was reported, adding that pig farms were not working well, dumps invited vermin, burning of them was seasonal at best, and many dumps "are poorly sited near water, making a very unsatisfactory impression on the minds of our summer visitors." Sanitary landfills were said to be the solution to this vexing problem, and advertisers in the Townsman were asking municipalities to consider the use of their equipment at landfills to solve their solid waste problem.
This would be the year of the Association's 10th Annual Convention, and a year of financial problems for many municipalities. Communities were asking if they were going to be able to pay their bills, another whole crop of taxes was being planted or harvested (income, payroll, shared, sales, utility, cigarette, amusement, occupation); a wave of crippling strikes was sweeping the nation and affecting Maine; the black market was flourishing and the economy floundering; inflation was stifling; assessments were falling, and the infrastructure of Maine's municipalities was falling apart.
The Association's first Executive Secretary, Roy Owsley, returned to address the 10th MMA Convention in Augusta. In his capacity as assistant director of the American Municipal Association he was in an excellent position to view the national municipal scene and relate it to Maine's municipal officials.
Owsley said if municipalities could not immediately secure increased local revenues, there were only four alternatives: bonding for capital improvements; eliminating or reducing existing services; transferring some municipal functions to some higher level of government; or calling on state and/or the federal government for new and increased grants. He warned there were dangers inherent in all of the alternatives, and nearly all of them came to pass.
The nationally known and respected municipal leader also predicted immediate public employee strife involving unionization and strikes, and severe problems with special class legislation for police and firefighters; housing was a significant problem and its attendant problems of streets, utilities, building and zoning codes, schools, were pressing; parking and traffic problems were suffocating many communities even while plans were being made for a vast national system of superhighways to funnel more automobiles into the choking cities; municipalities lacked comprehensive or master plans or zoning to plan their future, and where these existed lacked legal and financial tools to make them effective; and public apathy was pervasive.
The struggle for finances was creating major tensions and conflicts, and establishing trends, in intergovernmental relations, that many citizens fleeing to the suburbs were not even aware of.
In late November of 1946, Leigh Webber was named Executive Secretary of MMA, to replace Ernest Johnson, who resigned. Webber was town manager of Norway at the time, had been with the State Department of Health and Welfare, was a Bowdoin College graduate, and a native of Hallowell.
The year 1947 was marked by MMA's legislative initiatives to obtain passage of a general state sales or income tax, the revenues so derived to be shared among Maine's municipalities. The effort was unsuccessful, despite headlines which appeared in the Townsman including "Are Our Cities Going Broke?" The New England Townsman continued to offer some articles of general interest to municipal officials, but consisted mainly of columns related to specific municipal functions.
In January of 1948, it was announced that the New England Townsman would henceforth have the name, the MAINE TOWNSMAN, a publication by and for the municipal officials of Maine. The name, MAINE TOWNSMAN is used with permission of Loring, Short & Harmon, which had copyrighted it as the title of a compilation of Maine laws affecting municipalities it had published as a reference work for municipal officials.
The June 1948 TOWNSMAN told of the five major fires that had flashed through southern Maine during the last 11 days of October in 1947, killing 15 people and causing an estimated $30 million loss of property. Tales of death and destruction were numerous and graphic. It was the same Indian Summer fire that burned through Mt. Desert Island and Bar Harbor, where monetary damage to palatial estates was greatest. The toll in Maine included 862 homes, 267 cottages, 152 barns, three schools, and two churches. The hurricane of 1938 had left its kindling in the forests to feed the fires of '47.
The report of the MMA Special Tax Study Committee was given prominence in November of '48. It detailed facts and figures and comparisons that presented an awesome argument for tax reform in Maine and eight recommendations to achieve it.
A follow-up report appeared in December by Bernal Allen, then city manager of Auburn, who was a member of the Special Tax Study Committee. His further insights into the intolerable burdens of the property tax strengthened the call for tax reform by the Legislature in Maine, and made clear the responsibilities of municipal officials in demanding it.
In February of 1949 it was announced that the MMA had issued a handbook "Financing Local Government," the sixth manual published by the Association. In April, the resignation of Francis W. Sullivan as legal counsel of the Association was announced, together with a picture noting the reason for it; Francis W. Sullivan was being sworn as a Justice of the Superior Courtof Maine. Sullivan was the first and had been the only person to serve as legal counsel for the Association. After 12 years of advising municipal officials, he could still refer to it fondly as the most pleasant relationship of his life. In September it was reported that the Association had 402 members of a total of 493 municipalities, and that many of those members would have delegates to the 13th Annual MMA Convention to be held in Lewiston.
A special session of the Legislature was convened in February of 1950 to address shortfalls in appropriations to enable Maine's municipalities to meet their obligations in education, welfare, and roads.
In September of 1950 it was announced that Eric H. Hanson had been chosen as Executive Secretary of the MMA upon the resignation of Leigh Webber. Hanson graduated from the University of Maine, the Harvard Graduate School of Public Administration, and was a veteran of WW II.
Although it had hardly drawn the attention of municipal officials in its pages throughout the "Conflict," the TOWNSMAN editorialized in May of 1951 that veterans returning from Korea should be honored by their home towns, having earned the right to appropriate recognition.
It was the year of the 15th Annual MMA Convention held at the Eastland Hotel in Portland.
Dutch Elm Disease was reported to have invaded Maine in 1952, and while it did not have a significant impact on local government, it certainly had a significant impact on the appearance, perhaps even the character, of many Maine communities.
During most of 1953 and 1954, the monthly magazine of MMA was reporting on the emphasis on construction projects across the state and the nation. There was considerable concern in the state, as elsewhere, about civil defense and frequent mention of the "bomb." While it was a tense time in terms of international relations, airports, schools, streets, sewer systems, water lines were being built at record rates.
In November of 1954, Frank G. Chapman was appointed Executive Secretary of the MMA, replacing Benjamin Ela. Chapman was an attorney, graduate of Bates College and Cornell University Law School, served in the military for six years during and after WW II, practiced law in Old Orchard Beach, and came to MMA from a research position in the Legislature.
In 1956 the American Municipal Association and virtually every construction, transportation, business, and industrial association in the nation were urging MMA and other organizations to get behind what was billed as the "largest public works undertaking in the history of our country."
It was the Interstate and Defense Highway System, which probably would have been approved by a Congress anxious to infuse an economic boom into the country anyway, but adding Defense to the title guaranteed passage. The nation was still in the grips of memories of war, nervous about nuclear bombs, and feeling menaced by the Russians.
The nation embarked on a $27 billion project to build 41,000 miles of interstate highways that would connect 90 percent of the nation's cities of more than 50,000 population to carry one-seventh of the country's motor vehicle traffic. Its connection to the nation's defense effort meant that the federal government would pay 90 percent of the tab.
Almost without exception, major legislation, court decisions, technological advances, social changes, are looked back on as benchmarks that significantly changed the nation. One of those certainly has to be the interstate highway system - it has made a major difference in virtually every area of local government.
Meanwhile, the municipalities of Maine continued to reap the rewards of the nation's build, brighten, betterment era with pollution control projects, water service programs, industrial development, and redevelopment projects.
The MMA celebrated its 20th Annual Convention in Portland in November in an upbeat mood.
It continued into the next year when most of Maine's mid-sized to larger communities were involved in Urban Renewal Programs, and ground was broken in Lewiston for the state's first municipal industrial park, a 128-acre site with 20 prospects lined up before the ground was broken.
The 98th Maine Legislature held hearings, debates, amended, and finally passed L.D. 1089, a significant education measure that set new minimum salary schedules for teachers, placed a foundation program for education in effect, created school administrative districts with an incentive premium for consolidation where necessary, and provided state-aid for school construction in the re-organized school districts.
During the late 1950s and the first half of the 1960s, emphasis was placed nationally on social and human services programs that brought about major changes in Maine's local governments. Virtually every human services program became entangled in mandates, directions, regulations, and rules, accompanied by grants.
This period marked the beginning of what was coming to be recognized as the building of intergovernmental relationships and regionalization, the partnership of governments of all levels.
It was certainly noticeable in the 30th year of MMA in 1966. Pages of the TOWNSMAN, and a tide of publications, informed and advised municipal officials on their roles and responsibilities in dealing with the new programs that were impacting every local government and virtually every citizen of Maine.
At the beginning of 1966 it was announced that John L. Salisbury had been appointed Executive Secretary of MMA, succeeding Frank Chapman who had resigned to enter the private practice of law. Salisbury was a graduate of Bucknell University, had earned a Master's Degree from the Fels Institute of Local and State Government at the University of Pennsylvania, and had served as associate executive director of the Maryland Municipal League.
Information flowing to municipal officials from MMA that year covered the waterfront of local government activity, many of which were topics of discussion and presentations at the 30th Annual Convention in Portland: federal aid programs; local planning and urban renewal; community development districts; the Economic Development Administration; collective bargaining; housing and the federal Housing and Urban Development Act; water resource protection and development; pollution abatement; municipal police training; community development; state retirement; and municipal insurance programs.
The National Crime Information Center was established in 1967, and it was to inaugurate many changes in municipal departments in Maine. A TOWNSMAN article discussed its potential and how it worked. "This highly versatile electronic device (for information storage and retrieval) called the 'computer' is currently being used in some larger cities and state police departments to assist in police management."
Regional councils of government were touted in articles that year as having greatest potential for municipal governments, particularly as planning agencies which were described as essential to Maine municipalities in developing land use planning strategies, protecting coastal wetlands, and managing coastal development.
It was an "alphabet" year for sure. Sprinkled through the pages of all publications were OEO, SBA, EDA, HUD, BOR, FHA, LEA, FLSCA, CD.
In September of 1967 the TOWNSMAN announced the beginning of the MMA Health Benefit Plan, the first of the Association's programs to provide insurance coverage for municipalities and their employees. The intent then, as it continues today, was to provide maximum benefits at minimal costs, through pooling the premiums, administration, and risks of municipal members of the Association. The Health Benefit Plan of 1967 had 46 municipalities, and eight Associate Member special districts, as participants.
Communications - the need for information immediately - was becoming paramount in every municipality. The main source of information, advice, and technical assistance for Maine's municipal officials and employees was the MMA. In 1968, the Association opened the "municipal hot line," a toll free telephone line linking every member municipal office with the MMA - 1-800-452-8786. That line has been "hot" literally every minute of every working day for 18 years.
To improve its main printed source of information, the TOWNSMAN that year introduced some changes in its cover design, format and type.
1969 was a busy year, the decade did not go out quietly by any means. Councils of Government and regionalization were being advocated and created, as were Regional Planning Commissions. Federal programs such as HUD and the Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act virtually required them. There was recognition among municipal officials, too, that water, air, sewer, solid waste, transportation, and other issues were not specifically one-municipality problems, but regional in nature. Planning and land use issues more often than not crossed municipal boundary lines. The TOWNSMAN recognized this with a history and current activities of the Greater Portland Council of Governments.
Realization of that concept of regionalization further hit home that year in Maine's municipalities with passage of the $50 million state bond issue for planning and construction of municipal sewerage treatment facilities. The lofty goal: clean water in Maine by the year 2015. A lot of people on the Kennebec River annually enjoying the Great Whatever Race will tell you it was worth it, as will Atlantic Salmon fishermen.
1969 was a landmark year for Maine municipalities. With legislative approval and support, the state's citizens amended their Constitution to provide for municipal Home Rule. Municipalities were granted the power to alter and amend their charters on all matters, not prohibited by the Constitution or general law, which are local and municipal in character.
So was 1972. First, the Legislature had passed the State-Municipal Revenue Sharing Act, giving municipalities 4 percent of the sales and use taxes and the personal and corporate income taxes. Second, Congress passed the State Local Fiscal Assistance Act, commonly known as General Revenue Sharing. Third, the MMA Executive Committee announced that the Local Government Center would be built. Following a four-year planning effort, the MMA would build its facility (at its present location) for $315,000, providing ample parking and working and meeting space for the efficient delivery of services for its 450 member municipalities. In 1963 the MMA had moved from its second home "over the bank" at 97 Water Street in Hallowell, to larger quarters in the Odd Fellows Block at 89 Water Street in Hallowell. The Local Government Center was completed in 1974.
The Association celebrated its 40th Anniversary Convention in 1976 in Bangor. For the first time MMA General Sessions were videotaped and cassette recordings were made of them and some of the Affiliate Group programs. The Executive Committee had adopted new procedures for election of Executive and Advisory Committee members and revised the process for development of the Association's legislative policy.
Congress had passed the Public Works Employment Act of 1976, the Maine Law Court had repealed the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity for municipalities in a landmark decision, General Revenue Sharing had been re-enacted bigger and better than before; longevity of municipal government service had been celebrated in a feature article on Walter Trundy, who at the age of 96 was serving his 68th year as town clerk of Stockton Springs; the nation was caught in a bind due to lack of oil, and energy conservation was the latest municipal program; and MMA's membership stood at 471.
Planning, growth management, land use controls, the impact of growth on municipal taxes, requiring off-site improvements from developers, were all leading topics in 1977, as were human services delivery programs, and progress being made in Maine under the federal Water Pollution Control Act.
Federal grantsmanship continued for many Maine communities trying to get a share of the millions upon millions of dollars available through more than 1,000 federal loan and grant assistance programs; human services programs continued to be important news, as did developments on the energy front.
In December of 1978 John Salisbury announced his resignation as executive director of MMA, a position he had held longer than any other person. His 13 years at the helm of MMA were marked by many notable achievements.
For the Association, perhaps the most important came during Salisbury's last year.
For a good ten years MMA had been funding many of its service programs by obtaining grants, just as many municipalities were doing. It was a fast ride on an unstable surf of temporary funds. The Executive Committee had been aware and concerned about these developments and made the decision in 1978 to fund the Association's comprehensive service program from local government resources. It was a crucial and timely decision.
It was noted in a TOWNSMAN article on Salisbury's leaving that several state legislative policy changes had been effected during his tenure: constitutional home rule; state-municipal revenue sharing; education finance reform; increased state aid to municipalities; comprehensive municipal/public employee bargaining; the Maine Tort Claims Act; school budget home rule; and a constitutional amendment on property tax exemptions.
In March of 1979, the TOWNSMAN announced that Christopher G. Lockwood, assistant director of the Association of Washington Cities, had been appointed executive director of the MMA by the Executive Committee. Lockwood graduated from St. Lawrence University and obtained a Master's Degree in public administration from the University of Washington. That same issue also announced the availability of the Association's newest publication, Local Government In Maine, a citizen education tool available to Maine's schools for the first time.
In May the first Municipal Officials Day at the Legislature was held, coinciding with the first meeting of the Governor's Municipal Advisory Council.
A membership survey conducted in 1981 indicated MMA's service program was on track. Services ranked in order of dues funding priority were: telephone advisory legal services, legislative representation at the state level, letter advisory legal services, training programs, group insurance programs and general assistance.
The survey results came out about the same time municipal officials were getting accustomed to a new phrase, "New Federalism," out of Washington, which promised and delivered major shifts in the partnership that had developed in federal-statelocal government.
MMA developed its first Long Range Development Plan in September of 1982, establishing a process whereby the plan is updated each year. This process enables the MMA Advisory and Executive Committees to continually evaluate MMA's policies and programs, keeping them on track each year with an eye to their continuing to be effective in the years ahead.
Workshops throughout the state for elected officials were held for the second year, and continued to be an overwhelming success, both for those newly elected to municipal office and for those who had been in office for some time.
The Executive Committee announced in February of 1985 its decision to build a new addition to the Local Government Center in Augusta. Construction on the addition and internal renovation project continued through the remainder of the year, and an Open House in May of this year celebrated completion of the project. Keynote address for the Open House was delivered by Governor Joseph Brennan.
Earlier this year the Executive Committee gave its hearty approval to a recommendation of MMA's Past Presidents to create the Ethel Kelley Memorial Award. Nominations have been solicited from the Association's 489 municipal members, a Past Presidents Committee will judge the nominations, and the first recipient of MMA's most prestigious award will be honored at the 50th Anniversary MMA Convention in October in Augusta.
While this brief history has attempted to highlight some of the significant intergovernmental actions that were reflected in new programs and approaches at the Maine Municipal Association, as needed by Maine's municipalities, it has neglected some items.
MMA's Legal Services program is considered the most important dues funded activity of the Association. That much was determined in a survey of municipal officials; it is reinforced every working day. Municipal officials have come to rely on the Association's staff for advice, counsel, and reassurance in every area of local government activity.
The service has been a key part of the Association's core service program for 50 years. In the beginning it was provided by one field consultant who was on call to visit with any town needing assistance. It became an attorney on call. The service now consists of four attorneys and a paralegal who not only respond to more than 7,000 telephone and written inquiries each year, but participate in training programs, assist in drafting and monitoring legislation, prepare manuals and other publications and documents, and become involved in significant court cases affecting municipal governments.
The Association's Group Services Department is fast growing and providing much needed insurance protection for municipalities and public employees at a price they can afford.
Group Services' five include: the selffunded Worker's Compensation program, begun in 1978, now has more than 330 municipalities and public agencies participating; an Unemployment Compensation Fund, also started in 1978, now has more than 200 employers as participants; the Income Protection Plan is providing insurance for more than 2,200 employees; Public Officials Liability is providing protection for the officers of 218 public entities; and the Maine Municipal Employees Health Trust is the third largest group health program in the state, with 260 municipalities and public agencies participating, involving nearly 6,000 employees.
Due to the tremendous demand and need for cost-effective municipal property and liability insurance, the MMA has been studying creating such a risk pool for some time. Legislation enacted this spring enabled such public pools to be formed, and intensified the effort to develop the MMA program. It is expected to be offered to a select initial group of municipalities in October/November of this year, with a broad marketing effort toward increased participation beginning in December.
One significant impact on the expansion of federal and state government programs into municipalities was the required growth of local government staff to deal with them. While this occurred initially during the 1960s and 1970s, it continues at a time when the affairs of government are more complex, and more individuals with specific training, education and experience are required to deliver public services.
This was as true for the MMA as it was for its local government members. The Association's programs expanded or initiated departments and personnel dealing with insurance; personnel and labor relations; financial management; added and specialized communications and publications; advocacy at the state agency and department level; advocacy at the federal level in conjunction with the National League of Cities; training for a greater number and broader range of municipal officials and employees, manuals and research materials to assist them, and certification programs to mark their professional advancement.
Now in its 50th year, the Maine Municipal Association offers its 489 municipal members a tremendously broad range of professionally delivered services and programs, at as low a voluntary dues membership fee as is fiscally prudent.
As the staff and budget and services and members of the Association have grown over the years, so too has the opportunity for service within the Association by municipal officials, and through them, their municipalities. The Association's Legislative Policy Committee has expanded from a few Executive Committee-appointed members years ago, to 67 elected officials today; the Advisory Committee has expanded to include representation by every area of municipal government activity; the Insurance Advisory Committee and the Maine Municipal Employees Health Trustees give guidance, leadership and direction to MMA's five, soon to become six, insurance programs; the Governor's Municipal Advisory Committee was established by Governor Joseph Brennan to give his Administration guidance and counsel on municipal matters and hopefully will be continued by future state administrations.
Through all of these committees and by other means, every Maine municipality has the opportunity to participate in the annual updating and review of the Association's long range plan. The process of yearly updating the plan guarantees that it is an action plan, not a shelf document, to set the course of the Association's services and programs and activities over the next 12 to 18 months, and into the years ahead.
Affiliate Groups have always played a significant role in the activities of the MMA, especially with regard to training and legislation. In fact, a group known today as the Maine Association of Assessing Officers was known in 1936 as the Association of Maine Assessors, which merged with the Municipal Officers Association to form the Maine Municipal Association.
For nearly 30 years various Affiliate Groups regularly prepared columns for publication in the Association's monthly publication. As governments at all levels began to burgeon in the 1960s and 1970s, the number of Affiliate Groups participating in MMA grew, and today there are more than 22.
Officers and members of these groups maintain contact with MMA's training program center, and work with MMA staff in developing needed training programs for their members, as well as contact with MMA Legislative Policy Committee members to assist in the development of legislation needed in their respective areas.
Many of the Affiliate Groups hold their annual meetings in connection with MMA's Annual Convention, as well as providing programs of interest to their members. Presidents of the Affiliate Groups are members of the MMA Advisory Committee, as are presidents of the county associations.
There are currently five active county municipal associations in the state: the Aroostook Municipal Association, Franklin County Municipal Association, Oxford County Municipal Association, Northern Penobscot Municipal Association, and Somerset County Municipal Association. The municipal officers in these groups usually meet once a month, attract speakers, and provide a forum for information exchange, mutual support, and fellowship.
The MMA Advisory Committee includes 10 municipal officials elected at the annual convention, four public members, and the presidents of the MMA Affiliate Groups and county municipal associations.
It has had various roles during its long history of service to the Association and local government. It currently is charged with participating in the process of annually updating the MMA Long Range Plan, advising the Association on training needs and programs, advising the Association staff on topics and issues to be covered in the Maine TOWNSMAN, advising on programs and topics for the annual convention, and in developing special projects.
The MMA Legislative Policy Committee currently is made up of 67 members. It is responsible for developing the Association's public policy and advocating its positions. Prior to the convening of a new Legislature, a new Policy Committee is elected. Those elected are chosen by mail ballot for a two-year term and may be either elected or appointed municipal officials holding office in an MMA member municipality. Representation on the Policy Committee is based on the State Senate Districts, and there are two representatives for each District.
The MMA State and Federal Relations staff coordinates the activities of the Policy Committee, and prepares and distributes a weekly Legislative Bulletin while the Legislature is in session. That, too, is from long tradition. When the first staff director of the MMA came to the Association in 1937 in the middle of a legislative session, he immediately began preparing and distributing a weekly legislative summary.
The MMA Executive Committee consists of ten elected municipal officials responsible for the overall governance of the Association, and management of the Association between business meetings.
Municipal officials nominated to serve on the Executive Committee are selected by the Nominating Committee, seeking a balance of representatives from municipalities of various population sizes and geographical locations.
The Executive Committee appoints the Executive Director, who is charged with administering the policies and programs of the Committee on a daily basis.