Tiny city of Caribou, Maine, faces secessionist movement

Fri Jul 25, 2014 8:16pm EDT
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By Dave Sherwood

CARIBOU Maine (Reuters) - The city of Caribou, Maine, is home to less than 8,000 people, dozens of potato farms and, to the consternation of a small but vocal group of citizens, an airport, a recreation center and groomed snowmobile trails.

Citing those amenities as evidence of excessive spending by city government, a group of Caribou residents have started a movement to secede from the northern Maine city, which is closer to Quebec City than Portland, the state's largest municipality.

They aim to persuade voters to undo a municipal merger that took place in the 19th century, when Caribou absorbed the town of Lyndon. If secession succeeds, Lyndon would be home to about 2,400 residents, trout-filled rivers and bargain-basement taxes.

"We've run out of options," said Doug Morrell, a secession proponent who runs a local food service equipment company. "These people are writing checks the rest of us can't pay."

The move to secede is one of many across the United States in recent years, as angst over taxation - and increasingly polarized politics - has sparked grass-roots activism and a new sense of urgency.

Last year, five Colorado counties voted in a non-binding referendum to secede from the state, and part of rural Maryland announced its intent to split from its metropolitan neighbors. More recently, a California billionaire has launched a bid to split the state into six separate states.

While none of these efforts have succeeded, the idea of breaking up established communities is gaining ground.

"It's the same sort of motivation that the colonies had ‑ excessive taxation without representation," said Kit Wellman, an expert on secession at Washington University in St. Louis. "It used to be only nut jobs made these proposals. Now they’re being considered as potentially viable movements."   Continued...

A sign welcoming visitors to Caribou, Maine is seen in this picture taken July 18, 2014. Citing amenities such as an airport and recreation center as evidence of excessive spending by the city government, a group of Caribou residents have started a movement to secede from the northeastern most U.S. City and undo a municipal merger which took place in the 19th century. REUTERS/Dave Sherwood