Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Chebeague secession worthwhile, if the parting is amicable

A number of residents of Chebeague Island in Cumberland, along with some nearby islands, have expressed interest in going their own way as a separate town.

If that is their ultimate decision, and as long as the town and state agree, too, then they should have that opportunity, as state law provides.

That's the case regardless of the motives of the dissidents, who in this case appear to be expressing a mixture of dissatisfaction over recent property tax increases and concerns over the future of the island's K-6 school.

Such motives are not illegitimate, even though the fate of the school, which is part of SAD 51, is not up to the town to determine.

In seeking to increase their power to decide their own issues their own way, the islanders are expressing a basic principle of self-government.

That principle is not absolute, of course. Because it involves the interests of all the other residents of the town, they have a right to participate in making the decision, as does the Legislature, which must approve the change.

So far, the secession movement is at the talking stage, with residents planning to circulate petitions soon. If it gains majority support on the islands, however, it should be treated with serious respect.

Issues involving such items as a new fire truck purchased for the island can be worked out, with mainland residents properly compensated.

The residents of Long Island in Casco Bay and Frye Island in Sebago Lake recognized that island life is unique when they successfully pursued secession from Portland and Standish, respectively.

Chebeaguers know that, too, and see its historic expression as threatened. Wanting to preserve it is a worthy cause - so long as their fellow citizens on the mainland agree.