Tuesday, November 14, 2006

MAINE VOICES

Portland gets a pair of city councilors it needed

By Victoria Mares-Hershey
Portland Press Herald

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

While standing in Reiche School watching the new voters line up to register and vote for the first time, I thought it was David Marshall's time to win.

He is my 28-year-old neighbor on Pine Street. He started campaigning in Portland, door-to-door, hand-to-hand on July 10. He knew that his young face and his profession as a fine artist could present some stereotypes that would challenge his ambition to become a city councilor.

He embraced all of it, passed out cards with his campaign information on one side and en plein air (painting in the open air) art scenes from around Portland on the other.

Teens came to help pass out literature and put up signs. He talked to them about all the issues, including his stand against TABOR, which lost.

As David said, "Matt Baldwin, who works in this pizza joint, said he found himself explaining TABOR to people. He said, 'I heard myself speaking like you, Dave.' If he was empowered to feel he could make a difference, that makes me feel good."

WATCHING THE VOTE
David stood in Reiche until the very end of the voting night. He saw twentysomethings and people of every color. Down the hall were some teens with their hats on sideways, greeting him like he was a rock star.

They knew him as the Dave who directs Service Works for Portland West, where adolescents can do community service as required by the court for first-time, nonviolent offenders.

He knew the elderly woman in the rectangular rain hat and the guy wearing sandals in November, the parents, the teachers, the neighbors. He had taken community service teens to shovel the walks of the elderly, clean sketchy spaces and make them habitable, clean the graffiti off walls and deliver toys and coats to people in need in the middle of winter.

He said, "When I was standing in Reiche between 5 and 8 p.m. and the voter registration line had 50 to 100 people in their 20s, I felt good."

Wednesday morning I received an e-mail from Maine native Sandy Wright, sending out the message on his list-serve to friends his age from Maine who are scattered around the country. He had read that Kevin Donoghue in the East End and David Marshall in the West End had won their City Council races.

"We didn't weigh into this fight like we should have," wrote Sandy. "We should be thinking about reaching out to the new City Council players. They are both in their 20s and may be some help."

David and Kevin have come to the end of one long journey, the election campaign, and the beginning of another. Seated in the art gallery of the small, historic house on Pine Street that he renovated with his own two hands, David called up when he started thinking about running.
He had been active in speaking out against the war and frustrated as it just became worse in human costs abroad and at home in local communities stripped of valuable, if meager safety net programs.

WHY IT'S IMPORTANT

Then it got very local for him after a City Council hearing where many people turned out to speak.

"That's how it started. We had come from a City Council meeting, where we felt that the process and the people were not being respected by the council. Kevin said, 'Dave, are you angry enough to run for City Council?' I said yes. Elected officials are not listening. We need input."

By Wednesday, David Marshall and Kevin Donoghue had sat in on their first council event, a meeting of the Community Development Committee. David knows something about that. He was a poor art student when he decided he would buy the dilapidated house where he had an apartment.

He had watched rents going up and feared he would have to leave Portland. Saving every dime from his job and eating beans and rice for months, he arrived at the closing looking as if he were starved.

He brought out a self-portrait, signed with the year 2000, to prove it. He was gaunt. "At the closing the owner said, 'You look a little thin there,'Ý" laughed Dave.

His father, who had told him that starving himself to buy a broken-down house was a foolish move, came from Augusta to work the phones and the streets on his son's behalf.

"I spent less than $100 on catering," said David about his Friday art/campaign parties, "and one night I raised $1,000 from artists, truck drivers, people of every age."

Sounds like we need this city councilor.

Victoria Mares-Hershey is director of development at Portland West. She also is a member of the Maine Arts Commission and is a founder and the director of the Institute for Practical Democracy.

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