The Casco Bay Island Transit District (CBITD) board has voted itself free ferry travel in a measure to increase engagement in public oversight of island ferries.
CBITD board members are island residents that have been elected by fellow residents of Peaks, the Diamonds, Cliff, Chebeague, and Long Islands as well as ex-officio posts which include representatives from the City Council (Kevin Donoghue) and Maine Department of Transportation.
Until now, CBITD board members have served without compensation. But, at their last meeting, it was determined by vote that having a financial benefit for board members would serve several purposes. Board member Twain Braden, of Peaks Island, who in a message to an island list serve explained the rationale as such:
by creating incentive to serve, we might see heightened interest and involvement in elections and board meetings; and by having free passage to all islands, board members might visit other islands more regularly
Currently the board is filled with people who have the time, means, flexibility, or passion to devote to it. The work of the CBITD board does not receive much attention or public participation, which results in a board pressured by special interests such as seniors.
By voting to itself what is effectively a salary, the board hopes to broaden the appeal of serving possibly making the positions attractive to more diverse populations. But if one follows this line of reasoning the measure could logically be construed as the CBITD board giving itself a reward for acknowledging their own mediocre work.
While the measure seems to have been taken in good faith, it nevertheless appears a little odd. For starters, it should not be a great personal or administrative burden to order a free ticket to board members for island business. The bigger issue is effectively voting themselves an annual salary ranging from $900 for Peaks to about $1,375 for a Cliff Island pass. In terms of hourly wage, a hard working board member from Peaks might work 15 hours a month which comes to about $5/hr. On the other end of the spectrum a hypothetical Cliff Island board member who does the bare minimum (2 hours a month) would be “earning” over $57/hr.
So, the stated objective of increasing public participation in the transit district remains to be seen. In the mean time it has my attention.