Friday, November 17, 2006

Portland Phoenix

Young guns

K-Don and Dave on being city councilors, playing politics, and what Wharf Street should look likeBy: SARA DONNELLY

11/15/2006 6:43:37 PM

NEW ADDITIONS: Marshall + Donoghue

When Kevin Donoghue and Dave Marshall are sworn in to the Portland City Council on December 4, they’ll be more than a decade younger than the youngest of our sitting councilors.

Marshall, 28, and Donoghue, 27, will also be the first Green Independents to sit on this nonpartisan board, this in the wake of Greens on the school committee throwing their budding party heft around, and they’ll head into their new jobs as longtime close friends who encouraged each other to run. Marshall and Donoghue shared campaign literature (including an “East Side/West Side” postcard portraying them as hippie political thugs), held campaign launch parties in tandem, and intend to represent the voice of young Portland in the council chambers.

The Portland Phoenix sat down with the incoming councilors from the east side’s District 1 (Donoghue, a grad of USM's Muskie School) and from the west side’s District 2 (Marshall, a painter) the Friday after Election Day, to talk about politics, the Greening of Portland, and how sweet it is to be the swing vote.

You both pulled something of a coup winning your council seats. Kevin, you beat Will Gorham, an incumbent who’s spent years as a community leader on Munjoy Hill, and dave, you won in a three-way race against an opponent (Michael Patterson) who’d received the outgoing incumbent’s backing and another (Cyrus Hagge) who’s a well-known power player in Portland.
How did you win?

Kevin Donoghue I think platform matters. I think we put the issues forward that the voters think needed looking at. The housing crisis has been suffering from gross inaction. Issues of sustainable development and the creative economy have been spoken to, yet I think voters are looking to move on these issues rather than merely acknowledge these issues.

Dave Marshall I really targeted young voters and I’m in charge of the youngest district in the city, probably in the state (the West End and Parkside). I’ve been in the district for eight years; I’ve been a long time community builder and advocate and I knew the youth vote would give me the swing vote I needed. When I was doing doors, I just connected with everybody. I knew that the youth vote was important, but I really found inspirational the number of people across all demographics that were behind my campaign and had confidence in it.

You are both active members of the Green Independent Party — Kevin, since 2004, Dave, since 2000. The City Council is ostensibly nonpartisan, but do you plan to push a Green agenda anyway, like Greens Stephen Spring, Ben Meiklejohn, Jason Toothaker, and Susan Hopkins sometimes did on the Portland school committee?
DM We have very similar viewpoints and very similar values but I don’t think that we’ll end up having the same position all the time. But for the issues that over the years have come up, we’ve been able to see eye to eye on most of them, or compromise.
KD We think really well together, so when we begin speaking about an issue, it may come from different directions, but I think our thought processes are really complementary so that we can reach reasonable conclusions between one another.

Does that mean you are a team, that you will work together?
KD It’s an intellectual friendship.

Have you heard from the state or city Green parties? Do you expect they’ll pressure you to push the party platform?
DM We have very little connection with the state party. As far as pressure, I just think that we have values that are consistent with the values of the state party in that way. They’ll be there but I don’t see any pressure on what we’re doing. Kevin and I are really the leaders of the Green Independent revolution at this point.

You are?
KD Well, compared to . . .
DM We no longer have a higher ranking Green in the country.

You mean former State Representative John Eder?
DM We’re two out of nine [city councilors]; [Eder] was one out of 151 [state representatives]. It was a very difficult position for him to be in. He got beat up every time he was there. We’re two of nine.
KD And we’re the swing votes.

Swing votes? But you said you won’t necessarily work as a team.
KD There are identifiable factions [on the council], not parties, and these factions are clearly played out in who’s lobbying us to be mayor.Let’s talk about that. Traditionally, the councilor with the most seniority who has not served as mayor gets the ceremonial position; that would be donna carr. But word is jim cohen might want it for a second term, and nick mavodones, who served as mayor years ago, might want another crack at it.

Have you already gotten phone calls from city councilors about who should be next?
DM Yeah, on the morning of the eighth, I had turned off my phone [after the results were in] and when I woke up I had eight voicemails — one from the city manager’s office, wanting me to go in and meet with them; one from [city councilor] Jim Cloutier, his secretary saying that he wants us to go to his community development committee meeting; and that night I had a call from Cheryl Leeman. [Also] Karen Geraghty. Actually it was Jim Cohen who was the first one to pull the trigger.
KD Nick [Mavodones] did call me the same morning. Councilor Cohen called. Neither of them mentioned the mayor, but it was clear to us from the get-go that we choose the next mayor because Cohen was relying on [outgoing councilor Will] Gorham’s vote to be mayor.

You’ll need to help the council choose a mayor. Have you decided who you want to vote for?KD We’ll decide after we have a date for the caucus.
DM I haven’t had a chance to talk to Nick yet. We talked to Cohen this morning and he told us his interests and we talked about potential committees and so...

So you’re going to use this to lobby for committee appointments?
DM Yeah, well, there are certain committees that we’re interested in having seats on. So it’s a good chip to use. So I’d like to speak with Nick. Certainly Cohen has values — based on sustainability of Portland, transportation, creative economy — that we see eye to eye on. But I want to hear from Nick to see where we see eye to eye on.

City councilors serve on three committees and chair one. What committees do you want to serve on?
KD I hope that we are not put on inconsequential committees because we are new. I hope that our talents are recognized and we’re given the opportunity to use our talents for the city of Portland and that means meaningful committee assignments.

Which ones?
KD Community development, housing, transportation. And I’ll chair any one of them, even community development.
DM My experience working with youth offenders gives me the experience to be chair of the public safety committee, which now has an opening. And I’m also interested in being on the finance committee and, also, appointments. As Cohen said, he wants us to have a good idea of who we’re voting on before we go in. I think he just wants to avoid a circus in front of the public. We’re holding our cards close.
KD Sort of.
DM We told him and we told Nick what committees we want to be on and we’ll see what plays out from there. I’m certainly not going to spill the beans before that meeting.
KD Because we can get public commitments of committee assignments at that meeting if we are not confident that we got what we need.

Ok, before i let you go, i want to ask what the two of you think should be done to encourage Portland’s nightlife. Kevin, you ran against councilor Will Gorham, who made a name for himself by pushing a tripling of the seat tax on bars in the Old Port and in general operated on the premise that the bar scene after hours is dangerous and needs to be contained. No one on the council seems to have much of a clue about what the 30 and younger crowd wants for nightlife. What do you think should happen?
KD I’d repeal the Old Port overlay zone, no more seat tax.

You'll get free drinks forever.
KD Yeah, what else is new?

You'd get rid of the overlay altogether?
DM Altogether.
KD I’d even consider changing the way we clear out the Old Port as well. I believe that our 1 am policing strategy creates drunk driving. Fist fights are a lot less dangerous than drunk drivers.
DM Yeah. It doesn’t matter how many cops you put on the streets, it doesn’t matter if you put them in riot gear or not . Even if you put 100 cops down there at 1 am, even if you have 1000 drunk people coming out into the street, there’s still going to be the same issue where [the police are] not going to be able to handle it. The real key is to spread out when those people leave the bars so they’re not all leaving at the same time. You know, going to the Old Port and having a beer at 12 o’clock and you have to get it down by 12:30 and then they turn on the lights and start screaming at you to get out the door. You get out the door, there’s 13 cops standing across the street with their arms folded, and you take a step onto the street and you get hosed down by the city’s street cleaner. That’s just not the best way to handle nightlife.
KD It’s a good way to make people not want to come back to our city. It’s poor marketing.

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