Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Roads or rails?
It's the $50 million question for a committee whose mission it is to decide which of the region's most serious transportation needs will get federal aid. Roads, or rails?
By TOM BELL, Staff Writer
December 16, 2007
MEMBERS OF the High-Priority Projects Committee are:
– RICK MICHAUD, Saco city administrator, committee chair
– MIKE BOBINSKY, Portland public works director
– JOHN BUBIER, Biddeford city manager
– DALE DOUGHTY, Maine Department of Transportation
– DAVE COLE, Gorham town manager
– DAN JELLIS, Yarmouth town engineer
– DONNA LARSON, Freeport town planner
– MIKE MCGOVERN, Cape Elizabeth town manager
– TOM MEYERS, South Portland transportation and waterfront manager
– GARY WILLIAMS, Maine Department of Transportation
A pot of roughly $50 million in federal money will likely be available in two years to be spent on one to three big transportation projects in Greater Portland.
The question about where to spend the money – which regional planners have wrestled with for months with no public involvement ... has emerged as a hot issue.
A regional planning committee has drafted a list of 10 projects, with the goal of winnowing the list down to two or three projects to send to the federal government in 2009. Some of the top projects include adding additional lanes on I-295 in Portland and replacing the Veterans Bridge
This is the first time that the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation Committee – which represents 15 municipalities between Biddeford and Freeport – has gone after these kind of funds, which are earmarks in the federal government's five-year transportation spending plan.
For the past five months, a group made up of town managers, planners, engineers and public transportation directors has been quietly developing a priority list. The plan was for the committee to seek public input once it selected the top three projects to send to Maine's congressional delegation for funding. Everything was proceeding through the usual bureaucratic channels until September, when Portland transportation activist Christian McNeil discovered the list by reading the minutes of one of the committee's meetings.
McNeil posted the list on his blog, rightsofway.blogspot.com, which focuses on local transportation and land-use issues. He also put it on the e-mail list serving the Portland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
The League of Young Voters – a Portland political action committee that is active in city politics –then decided to make the issue a top priority.
The group last week held a forum about the issue that was attended by 33 people, mostly young adults, Portland Mayor Ed Suslovic, three city councilors, Rep. Boyd Marley, D-Portland, the House chairman of the Legislature's Transportation Committee, as well as two television crews and three newspaper reporters.
Two other groups are also now involved, the Portland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and Portland Greens Streets, a citizens group that gives "green commuters" discounts at participating Portland businesses.
PACTS – which is not used to getting much public attention – has now received more than 20 letters, all expressing the view that the priority list is weighed too heavily in favor of increasing highway capacity and gives short shrift to alternatives, such as extending passenger rail service from Portland to Brunswick.
The letter writers are particularly opposed to the notion of adding lanes to Interstate 295 through Portland.
The $30 million project, which would effectively widen the highway between Exit 5 and Exit 7 in Portland, is now ranked as No. 4 on the priority list.
"The idea of widening that awful highway should be laughed out of the room," Patrick Banks, a member of the League of Young Voters steering committee, wrote the planners. "Seriously, this list doesn't exactly include a lot of choice for the teeming masses of commuters in southern Maine who would much rather not have to drive their cars to and from work every single day."
The list illustrates a "disconnect" between the goals of regional transportation planners and aggressive state policies that are aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, said Erik Osborn, chairman of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee.
"We are designing transportation systems that will generate more greenhouse gases in the future," he said, "and make it more challenging to meet targets we are setting."
Osborn, 33, commutes to work by bicycle within the city of Portland. While widening I-295 will make it easier for more people to drive into the city, he said, the additional traffic on the city's narrow and congested streetswill make it more difficult for bicyclists to get around safely.
Osborn and the League of Young Voters favor spending the federal dollars on extending passenger rail service to Brunswick. The $100 million project is ranked as No. 8 on the list, which puts it out of the running for getting any money.
While extending passenger rail service would be "wonderful," there are a lot of well-documented safety and capacity issues in the current road system that need to be addressed first, said Rick Michaud, Saco's city administrator and chairman of the High Priority Projects Committee, the PACTS panel that drafted the list. Michaud appointed the members on the panel.
"To make a simple analogy," he said, "if you have a home and your roof is leaking, you ought to be dealing with the leaky roof before you start building a new garage."
When I-295 was built through Portland, engineers designed the project so additional lanes each way could be built in the median.
The project is primarily intended to make that stretch of road safer by shifting through traffic away from the on- and off-ramp areas of Exit 6 at Forest Avenue, said Julia Dawson, a transportation planner for PACTS. If nothing is done, there will be a lot more crashes in the future as traffic volumes increase, according to a traffic analysis.
At the League of Young Voters forum last Tuesday, Dawson told the crowd that she was pleased to see so many people interested in transportation planning. She said that she agreed with their goals, but added that planners must take a regional approach that balances all modes of transportation.
"You have to be realistic," she said.
In an interview after the meeting, she said she didn't think the priority list would change.
There is not much disagreement about the top project on the list: $30 million to rebuild the 53-year-old Veterans Bridge, which links Portland and South Portland.
No. 2 on the list is $22.5 million to replace 19 transit buses, 17 vans or buses used for people with disabilities, and one passenger ferry, and also add 10 transit buses and 14 vans.
No. 3: $35 million to build a four-mile, two-lane bypass north of Gorham Village, connecting Route 25 near West Gorham to Route 25 at Mosher Corner.
Also on the list are:
– $55 million to build longer and wider ramps at I-295 exits from Freeport to Falmouth.
– $11 million to upgrade the exit 20 interchange in Freeport.
– $10 million to improve Philbrook Road near the Maine Mall.
– $17 million to build a new interchange on the Maine Turnpike in Saco.
• $30 million for several highway improvements in Biddeford, including building a new Maine Turnpike interchange that would serve motorists traveling from Sanford and Alfred.
In response to the public's interests, the High Priority Projects Committee plans to hold a pubic forum in Portland at some point next month to get feedback on the entire list.
The committee will then make a recommendation to the PACTS policy committee, which has 22 voting members, 19 of whom are staff employees of member cities and towns, plus a representative of public transit, the Maine Department of Transportation, and the Maine Turnpike Authority.
In addition, there are non-voting representatives of the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and the Greater Portland Council of Governments.
Osborn noted that there are no elected officials on the policy committee, and that those on the committee are too far removed from citizens.
"They are people who don't interact with the public all that much," he said. "They are used to working in isolation. It sort of came as a surprise to them that they started receiving public comment on this."
Tom Meyers, who runs bus service for the city of South Portland and sits on the High Priority Projects Committee, said the committee includes members who represent a wide range of stakeholdergroups.
Meyers said committee members are pleased that the public is showing an interest in what they do.
"How can you not be tickled that people are asking questions about how we should be investing our public dollars," he said. "These are great questions. I am happy seeing them being asked."
Duncan said planners have not decided how the decision- making process will proceed after the January forum. He said they want to win the endorsement of the cities and towns in the region, Maine DOT and public transit organizations before making a final decision in the fall of 2008.
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be reached at 791-6369 or at:
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Olympia wins nod for pier contract
The city election of Nov. 6 effectively ended a 4-4 City Council stalemate on the landmark project.
By TOM BELL, Staff Writer December 4, 2007
The Portland City Council chose Olympia Cos. on Monday as its partner for redeveloping the Maine State Pier, the centerpiece of the council's plan to create a new urban neighborhood on the city's waterfront.
The 5-3 vote ended a three-month impasse that was settled only by the results of the city election on Nov. 6.
The city manager now will negotiate with Olympia about the terms of the lease. The council will decide later whether to accept those terms.
"Today is truly a great day for the city of Portland," Councilor David Marshall said. "We have broken the stalemate."
Chris O'Neil, a lobbyist for the Portland Community Chamber, said he shared the council's "elation" that it had reached a decision and ended a debate that began in February, when Olympia Cos. of Portland and Ocean Properties of Portsmouth, N.H., first submitted their bids. The council has been deadlocked 4-4 since September about which firm to pick.
"You can criticize. You can praise it," he told the council. "It has been a bizarre process."
Three councilors opposed the motion to begin negotiations with Olympia, saying that Ocean Properties, which has $1 billion in assets and offered to put up $100 million in escrow, has greater financial resources and more marine experience.
But Olympia's supporters said the company has a superior approach to the design process and developed stronger community support.
Olympia Cos. proposes building a hotel and a "village" of shops and restaurants on the pier, and a public park and an office building on adjacent land.
Ocean Properties proposed building the hotel and the office building on the land, and more marine uses on the pier.
The council also voted 7-1 to include in the project a deep- water berth for the world's largest cruise ships. It would be built at the end of the Ocean Gateway pier, which is under construction. Councilor Daniel Skolnik voted against the motion.
With the deadlock broken, the council can move forward, said Councilor Kevin Donohue, who supported Olympia.
Mayor Ed Suslovic and Councilors John Anton, Cheryl Leeman and Marshall also voted for Olympia. Councilors Skolnik, Jill Duson and Nicholas Mavodones Jr. voted in favor of Ocean Properties.
Councilor James Cohen recused himself because one of his law partners is a consultant for Olympia.
Olympia's design has significant permit issues that may prevent it from being built, said Skolnik, who was sworn into office earlier in Monday.
He noted that supporters of Olympia said the design can be renegotiated. He said that approach does not seem to be a fair and open public process.
"How is it transparent to vote for an unknown design?" he asked.
Because the city election effectively resolved the issue of picking a developer, the council spent most of Monday's debate battling about what kind of bargaining conditions it should set for negotiations.
Mavodones proposed that Olympia follow a set of conditions, including $10 million in upfront money, financial commitment from lenders, and deadlines for getting regulatory approval and finishing the project. Also, Mavodones said, the project should not be built in phases.
The Portland Community Chamber proposed a similar amendment, but the conditions were less stringent. The chamber said the council should require Olympia to put at least $5 million in an escrow account after both sides reach a final agreement about the lease terms and the development plan Mavodones said he is worried that problems in financial markets may prevent Kevin Mahaney, who heads Olympia, from getting the loans he needs to build parts of the project
"I have concerns it won't be done as we have asked," he said.
Duson said she wants Olympia to show that it has the financial capacity to build the project.
Both proposed amendments were defeated, 5-3, along the same lines as the vote on the developer.
Anton said it is premature to set conditions.
He added that he didn't like either proposal and he wants to open up the process to additional public input about the design. "We are at the point where we have a tangled mass of things we are trying to untangle," he said.
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Councilor Dave Marshall
The year of 2007 has been turbulent for the City of Portland. The year started with the chain business regulation and ended with the Maine State Pier deadlock. At the core of both of these key issues were failures in public process. It is now encouraging to see the correction of these failures with the changing of leadership and a focus on fair process and meaningful citizen participation. Contrary to chain business regulation and the Maine State Pier redevelopment, the Council made a lot of progress and I found success with policy concerning public safety, finance, and the creative economy.
Chain Business Regulation
The first few months of my term on the Portland City Council were dominated by debate about chain business regulation. Before my inauguration, the Council passed the contentious Formula Business Ordinance on a 5-4 vote. The FBO was riddled with legal challenges, including failure to follow mandatory process for review by the Planning Board. In the interest of fair process, I was the swing vote that allowed the Council to take a set back, repeal the FBO, and then create the Task Force for Business Diversity, for which I was named co-chair. The neighborhood activists and stakeholders that comprise the TFBD have recently expressed interest in small business incentives. In the winter of 2008 the TFBD members will recommend downtown business policies to the Council.
During my first meeting on the Council I supported an amendment that ended a property owners hopes of renting his store in Deering Center to Dunkin’ Donuts. The amended ordinance prohibits high traffic businesses in neighborhood business zones. The neighbors that fiercely opposed the Dunkin’ Donuts have now warmly received the new pizza restaurant that the property owner recently opened.
The repeal of the Bar Stool Fee was the first action of the Public Safety Committee under my chairmanship. Before the repeal, the Bar Stool Fee was used to make a few bars pay for Old Port overtime policing, from which everyone would benefit. Unfortunately the Council also passed strict regulations on entertainment licenses in our downtown during the same meeting.
Also through the Public Safety Committee, we recommended the strengthening of the Sidewalk Snow Clearance Ordinance and the Disorderly House Ordinance. The Council unanimously passed both of the amendments. As a result, the City will take a more proactive approach this winter to enforcing sidewalk safety after winter storms. The police will also be more proactive when dealing with drugs and prostitution as the property owner is contacted after the first offense. Upon the third incident, the City negotiates a recovery plan with the property owner, which is enforceable through the court system.
In the interest of public safety, I co-sponsored a Council Order that named Dogherty Field as the new location for the skate park. After the old skate park was removed from Marginal Way, the skate boarders moved their activities to the Old Port where traffic and safety concerns quickly arose. When passing the order, the Council created a skate park design committee and a Dogherty Field master planning committee. The Mayor appointed me as the chair of the skate park design committee.
Skateboarding issues in the Old Port revealed enforcement challenges due to conflicting ordinances. While one ordinance allows skateboarding in accordance with traffic laws, another ordinance banned skateboarding on all city streets. A compromise was struck with the Portland Downtown District due to concern about skateboarding on sidewalks and in parks downtown. The Public Safety Committee recommended and the Council approved a motion to strike the ordinance outlawing skateboarding on city streets. Furthermore, the Council made downtown sidewalks and parks off limits to skateboarding. Now skateboarding is allowed on all pubic ways except for sidewalks and parks in our downtown.
As a member of the Finance Committee, we initiated a task force to reform the way the City allocates Community Development Block Grant funds. The task force members found consensus on ten reform measures. The Council passed nine of the ten reforms that were recommended by the task force.
By playing hardball with the Sea Dogs during lease negotiations, a couple of Councilors and I were able to save Portlanders over $1 million in subsidies. The Sea Dogs, a for-profit corporation, also agreed to finance the new $1.7 million clubhouse at Hadlock Field without a city bond. The Sea Dogs signed a twenty-year lease with the City after its concessions.
As the first professional artist on the City Council I found success with creative economy policy. First, through the Finance Committee we recommended and passed an increase in funding for the Portland Arts and Cultural Alliance. Then the Creative Economy Steering Committee, of which I co-chair, recommended and saw passage of a new loan program for artists.
Finally, I initiated a bill that was signed into State law that allows municipalities to use Tax Increment Financing revenue for arts and cultural purposes. The Arts District TIF was an idea that I described during my campaign last year in a letter to the editor of the West End News. Thanks to the help of the League of Young Voters and the sponsorship of Representative Herb Adams, the Arts District TIF idea is becoming a reality. The Creative Economy Steering Committee is now recommending that the Council form a TIF zone for our Downtown Art District.
Maine State Pier Redevelopment
The Maine State Pier deadlock has been broken and fair process will be restored due to the election of John Anton to the City Council. Before the election, the Council was deadlocked 4-4 over which developer to select to redevelop the Maine State Pier. Anton, a fellow West Ender, included fair process in his platform to upset incumbent Jim Cloutier, the former chair of the Community Development Committee. Anton supports The Olympia Companies, a Portland based development team, for the redevelopment of the Maine State Pier while Cloutier supports Ocean Properties. Although I was not a member of the CDC, I attended almost every committee meeting for the MSP review. Additionally, I hosted the Maine State Pier Public Forum to encourage citizen participation during the developer-driven review by the CDC. During the committee meetings, I was a vocal advocate for fair process as the CDC chose to violate the process written in Maine State Pier Request for Proposal document. By selecting Olympia for the Maine State Pier redevelopment, the Council rejects the recommendation of the CDC and the unfair process it employed.
It has been an honor to represent the West End, Parkside, and University Neighborhoods on the Portland City Council. The first year of my term was marked with struggles concerning chain business regulation and the Maine State Pier deadlock, however, the successful policy initiatives of the Council far outweighed the challenges. Of my efforts on the Council, I am most pleased with saving Portlanders $1 million in subsidies for the Sea Dogs and for initiating the State Law change to allow the Arts District TIF, In 2008, I look forward to working with the new Council to bring meaningful citizen participation to the Maine State Pier debate and to initiate sustainable economic development in our downtown.
Please share your ideas and concerns with my by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 207.409.6617.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Pier issue may hurt two council members
Election 2007: Challengers accuse Portland incumbents James Cloutier and Jill Duson of bungling the process.
By KELLEY BOUCHARD Staff Writer November 1, 2007
The role that Portland City Councilors James Cloutier and Jill Duson played in the effort to find a developer for the Maine State Pier could be a deciding factor in their re-election bids.
A controversial position that two Portland city councilors took in reviewing Maine State Pier proposals could be a deciding factor in whether they get re-elected on Nov. 6.
The election also could change the political makeup of the nine- member council, adding Green Independent Party members or an unenrolled candidate to a board that usually is dominated by Democrats.
James Cloutier and Jill Duson, at-large councilors who are up for re-election Tuesday, sit on the three-member committee that oversaw a four-month review of competing proposals to redevelop the city-owned pier.
Ocean Properties Ltd. of Portsmouth, N.H., and The Olympia Cos. of Portland are vying for the opportunity to negotiate with the city to build a hotel, office building and other waterfront amenities worth more than $100 million.
The 85-year-old pier and its large industrial shed were formerly used by Bath Iron Works and Cianbro Corp. Portland officials rezoned the property last year and sought mixed-use redevelopment proposals, largely because the pier needs at least $13 million in repairs and because the city has been unable to find new tenants for the shed.
The challengers in the at-large race, John Anton and Mark Reilly, say Cloutier and Duson bungled the effort to find a worthy developer for a major public asset.
"The Maine State Pier process has been flawed from the start," Reilly said.
Cloutier and Duson say the process was open and comprehensive, but it was overshadowed by major public- relations campaigns mounted by the competing firms.
"One thing we didn't anticipate was the level of political action from the applicants," Cloutier said, who has been committee chairman for four years. "The first meeting and every meeting after was like a political rally, with PR firms and scripted supporters speaking in favor of each proposal."
The community development committee voted 2-1 to recommend Ocean Properties to the full council. The third committee member, Councilor Kevin Donoghue, supports Olympia. He openly opposed the review process that was developed by Cloutier and backed by Duson.
The council is now deadlocked on the issue, having voted 4-4 on the competing firms last month. Councilor James Cohen recused himself from even considering the proposals because he has a professional conflict of interest.
Many people, including Donoghue, have criticized the way the community development committee reviewed the proposals.
Some said the process was unfair because the committee allowed the firms to change their proposals after they were submitted in February. Others said the search for a developer lacked community backing because city officials didn't ask Portland residents how the pier should be redeveloped before seeking proposals.
Anton, president of an affordable housing investment company, and Reilly, a letter carrier, say the review process was unfair, inept and led the committee to recommend the wrong firm. Anton and Reilly support Olympia.
"This election is about the way the city does business," Anton said. "There are these time-consuming processes that lead to decisions that appear to have been done deals from the start."
Cloutier, a real estate lawyer, and Duson, a state administrator, say the committee's recommendation of Ocean Properties was sound. Cloutier is seeking a fourth three-year term. Duson is seeking a third term.
"The process was thorough and transparent, and both applicants were well aware of how it would be conducted," Duson said. "The process wasn't a surprise to either of them."
Duson said residents had opportunities to comment on what kind of development should be allowed on the pier when the council rezoned the property last year.
The seats held by Cloutier and Duson are two of three council positions up for election Tuesday. The other is the District 3 seat held by Donna Carr, who also supports Ocean Properties. She isn't seek re-election to a second term for health reasons.
Although Portland's municipal races are nonpartisan, some voters pay attention to party affiliation. The council currently has six Democrats (Cloutier, Duson, Carr, James Cohen, Nicholas Mavodones Jr. and Edward Suslovic), two Greens (Donoghue and David Marshall), and a Republican (Cheryl Leeman), said City Clerk Linda Cohen.
Maine's largest city is dominated by Democrats. Among Portland's 40,345 active voters, 18,173 are registered Democrats, 13,401 are unenrolled in a party, 6,743 are Republicans and 2,028 are Greens, Cohen said.
Democrats' hold on the council weakened last year with the election of Donoghue and Marshall, and it could grow weaker.
Cloutier and Duson could be unseated by Anton, who is a Green, or Reilly, who is currently unenrolled but has been registered within the last four years as a Republican, a Green and a Democrat, Cohen said.
The candidates for District 3 include three Democrats (Anthony Donovan, Richard Farnsworth and Daniel Skolnik) and a Green (William Linnell).
While Linnell said he supports Olympia, Donovan, Farnsworth and Skolnik said they support Ocean Properties.
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:
As chair of the Portland Green Independent Committee I am proud of the Green candidates who are running for office. I reject the negative direction the campaign has taken due to the large independent expenditures of some big-name Democrats. Further I disagree with the premise of his argument: Greens do not cause chaos we help foster democracy and competition.
Portland Greens are a diverse group, and as such often do not agree among themselves. This can be seen in any given board where there is more than one Green. Councilors Kevin Donoghue and Dave Marshall do no simply vote in lockstep, they often disagree and are sometimes quite vocal about it. A perfect example of such was the resolution for impeachment of President George W. Bush- Dave Co-Sponsored the resolution (with Democrat Jill Duson) in what he thought was a proper venue to call for impeachment, Kevin voted nay due to his belief that the people of Portland should make this known through referendum rather than a resolution. This is natural and normal, disagreement is good, debate is better, and collaboration to consensus is best. Disagreement within a party only helps that party to address issues that are important, allows for more open and honest debate and will ultimately lead to better policy decisions than fear and party line voting will. Greens are not browbeaten when they take principled stands that other Greens disagree with.
This year's crop of municipal Greens are focused on winning due to their ideas, their enthusiasm and their vision of Portland for the future. There is nothing wrong with pointing out your differences candidly; there is everything wrong with baseless smear ads. It is a sad day when the Democratic machine can find no positive way to support their candidates. I believe, and I'd wager that most Portlanders believe that negative campaigns hinder the democratic process and fail to further a positive discourse that is healthy for our city and in the best interest of Portland's citizens.
Perhaps the least important argument I will make here is that These Greens do not cause chaos. Greens contribute to a relatively new phenomenon in Portland- competitive elections. If that is chaos to some, perhaps it is the best kind- democracy. Democrats have nothing to fear from an open and honest dialogue. If people like what they say they will win, if people don't they will lose, but there will always be another election, this is a city with far more registered Democrats than Greens. People in Portland are voting for Greens because they want a school committee and a city council that is not just a political rubber stamp. Further, any policies that have been advocated by Greens here in Portland have had at least some support from Democrats. Why is this? Because Democrats have held a majority (a super-majority in most cases) on every elected board in the city! With military recruitment- Greens earned the support of Democrats, using metro buses for high school students- Democrats also supported it. Creation of a business diversity task force- Tri-partisan support! In that case the two Council Greens formed a voting bloc with two Democrats and the lone Republican. Instead of calling this chaos this should be called a blueprint for making good public policy- inclusion of all political opinions to create the best ordinance that suits the most people.
Portland Greens: Bringing Portland Competitive Elections since 2001
Portland Green Independent Committee
207 233 9476
Democrat targets Greens running in city election
Election 2007: Anthony Buxton is placing signs around Portland blaming Greens for city government's problems.
By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Staff Writer November 1, 2007
As many as 200 of these signs opposing John Anton and Benjamin Meiklejohn could be posted by Tuesday.
A well-known Portland Democrat has begun a campaign to oppose the election of Green Independent Party candidates in Tuesday's city election.
Anthony Buxton, a founder of Democracy Maine and a leader of the state's Hillary Clinton campaign, has started putting up signs blaming Greens for problems on Portland's City Council and School Committee.
Buxton said he plans to post as many as 200 signs throughout Maine's largest city that read, "These Greens Cause Chaos." The signs show the last names of John Anton and Benjamin Meiklejohn crossed out in red. He filed a campaign expense report of $3,000 Tuesday at City Hall.
Anton is an at-large candidate for City Council. Meiklejohn is an at-large candidate seeking a third term on the School Committee.
Although the city's elections are nonpartisan, Greens recently have gained ground in Portland, where Democrats traditionally dominate.
GREENS BLAMED FOR PROBLEMS
Greens hold three of nine seats on the School Committee and two of nine seats on the City Council. Four Greens are among 14 candidates for a total of six open seats on the two panels.
Buxton said he blames Greens for the council's 4-4 deadlock over choosing a developer for the Maine State Pier and the School Committee's embarrassment over members' recent arrests for petty crimes and a $2 million budget deficit.
Meiklejohn is the committee's finance chairman. He was arrested in April on a charge of driving after license suspension. The charge was dropped last month.
Another Green, Jason Toothaker, resigned from the committee in January after he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor theft of services for running from a $4.65 cab fare. Police found him hiding beneath a porch on Park Avenue. Toothaker did not contest the charge and was fined $610 in April.
"I've lived in Portland for 27 years and I've been extremely disappointed by what's going on on the School Committee and the City Council," Buxton said.
Buxton said he believes the Greens are acting as a group to "make things difficult without any purpose." He said their efforts run counter to the spirit of cooperation and compromise that has marked Democrat-dominated boards.
Buxton said he believes that Greens are directly responsible for distracting the boards and he worries that Greens will drag the city backward just as Portland is gaining a national reputation as a great city.
"We all see it," Buxton said. "Let's not elect more of them ... I want people on my council and School Committee who are adults and civically responsible."
Buxton is a prominent utilities lawyer with Preti Flaherty, a Portland firm that represents the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He was finance chairman of John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign in Maine and is now backing Hillary Clinton. He is a former state Democratic Party chairman and founder of Democracy Maine, according to the law firm's Web site.
Buxton said he is friendly with many prominent Democrats, including former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who has been in Portland news lately as a partner in Ocean Properties Ltd., one of two firms that want to redevelop the city-owned Maine State Pier. The other is The Olympia Cos.
Buxton said he has no opinion on which firm should get the project but he believes the council should be able to pick one and move forward.
Anton is a former Planning Board member who is president of an affordable-housing investment company. He said he doesn't promote himself as a Green, nor does he deny it. He said he doesn't vote along party lines, noting that he has already cast his ballot and voted for Jaimey Caron and Kathleen Snyder, both Democrats, in the at-large School Committee race. He said he wouldn't encourage partisanship on the council.
"I am not a lock-step person," Anton said. "I plan to make decisions based on what I think is best for the city. I think the tenor of that sign is (Page 2 of 2)
exactly what people want to get away from in local politics."
Anton has been a vocal opponent of the process that the City Council used to review the two proposals for the Maine State Pier. He supports the proposal from The Olympia Cos.
David Marshall, one of two Greens who were elected to the council last November, took issue with Buxton's characterization of his work on the council.
"The deadlock on the pier represents a tripartisan effort to stand up to the establishment Democrats on the council -- who usually vote as a block -- and do what's right for the city," Marshall said. "You can't blame a minority party for what's going wrong on either board."
In addition to Marshall and Kevin Donoghue, the other Green on the council, the council has six Democrats and a Republican.
In voting on the Maine State Pier proposals, Marshall and Donoghue voted for Olympia, as did Edward Suslovic, a Democrat, and Cheryl Leeman, a Republican. The four Democrats who voted for Ocean Properties were Donna Carr, James Cloutier, Jill Duson and Nicholas Mavodones Jr.
"You can't place the blame for this deadlock on two people," Marshall said, adding that he and Donoghue have split on several issues.
Marshall said he attends council meetings, votes for what he thinks is best for Portland, owns a home, pays taxes and runs a small business.
"That's a pretty significant level of responsibility for a 29-year- old," he said. "When it comes down to it, I think people get turned off by this type of negative campaigning."
Cloutier and Duson, at-large councilors who face Anton in Tuesday's election, said they had nothing to do with the signs but agree with Buxton's concerns.
"I do think that we have suffered from some problems as a result of the activities of the Green Party, particularly on the School Committee, (and) it's bleeding over onto the council," Cloutier said.
Duson said this year's city campaigns have been unusually partisan on both sides, "but most of it has come from the Greens."
Meiklejohn and Donoghue did not respond to requests for interviews.
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Council ties on plan for Clifford
Later this month, it will reconsider proposals to either renovate the school or build a new one.
By ELBERT AULL Staff Writer October 16, 2007
The Portland City Council deadlocked Monday night on a proposal to abandon Nathan Clifford Elementary School and build a new school elsewhere.
The tie vote serves to prolong the contentious, two-year debate over whether to renovate or replace the century-old facility.
The 4-4 vote occurred nearly two weeks after the Portland School Committee shifted course and recommended replacing Clifford with a new facility, and days after the state's education commissioner came out against a proposed $21 million renovation of Clifford that would get the outdated building up to state standards.
The nine-member council, under its rules on tie votes, will reconsider the issue next month. Councilor Cheryl Leeman did not attend Monday's meeting for health reasons.
Even a "no" vote from the council would not put a stop to the school proposal, which has worked its way through various committees for more than two years.
The Clifford issue needed only School Committee backing to go before the state Board of Education for a vote in the coming months, city officials said. But at least seven city councilors would have to approve financing for the project.
Councilors Ed Suslovic, Kevin Donoghue, David Marshall and Donna Carr voted against replacing the school.
Local leaders, parents and neighborhood residents have debated whether to renovate or replace Clifford since 2005, when the state put the historic building on Falmouth Street at the top of its list of crumbling school facilities that needed to be addressed. That meant state funding would be available to fix or replace the outdated building.
In August, a joint task force of School Committee and council members recommended closing Clifford and replacing it with a new facility that would cost $18 million, about $3 million less than the estimated cost of renovations.
The recommendation roiled some parents and neighborhood residents, who cited the school's location, diversity and above- average state standardized test scores as reasons to save the historic brick building.
They also complained loudly that their opinions were marginalized during numerous public meetings that followed the state's decision to make Clifford a top priority.
"There's a (foregone) conclusion that we're building a new school and we're building it at Baxter," Mary Gross, the parent of a Clifford student, said during Monday's meeting.
Staff Writer Elbert Aull can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:
Council can't decide on pier bids
A 4-3 vote to pick Ocean Properties is one short of the total needed to pass.
By Tom Bell, staff writer October 16, 2007
The City Council failed again Monday to get the five votes needed to choose a winning bidder for the Maine State Pier redevelopment project.
The impasse means that issue will likely remain unresolved when Portland voters fill three open council seats in Nov. 6 elections, leaving the new council to resolve the debate. Councilors voted 4-3 on a motion to award the bid to Ocean Properties of Portsmouth, N.H., one vote short of the number needed to pass.
Councilor Ed Suslovic, the only councilor who had not previously declared a preference for either developer, voted in favor of Olympia Cos of Portland. After the meeting, Suslovic said he hopes the impasse will spur the two developers to work together on the project.
If the election results end up deciding the issue, he said, that is not bad outcome.
�The voters will have the chance to express themselves,� he said. �We may not like that it takes longer, but it�s a democracy, after all.�
Councilor Jill Duson, who supports Ocean Properties, said the election will make the selection a matter of politics rather than rational analysis. She said she has reviewed hundreds of pages of documents from both firms. �Now it�s purely political,� she said.
Mayor Nicholas Mavodones Jr. said the election may not decide the issue, and the city could end up losing a $150 million development project.
�I think it�s sad for the city of Portland. We can�t make a decision,� he said. �We seem to be at paralysis. And it�s not just on this issue.�
Councilors Kevin Donoghue and David Marshal joined Suslovic in support of Olympia Cos.
Mavodones, Duson and councilors Donna Carr and Jim Cloutier supported Ocean Properties.
Councilor Cheryl Leeman, who supports Olympia, was absent because she is recovering from surgery. Councilor Jim Cohen has recused himself because a co-worker at his law firm, Mike Saxl, is giving legal advice to Olympia Cos.
Monday�s vote came after a public hearing during which about 20 people spoke on the issue of adding a so-called �mega- berth� to the project. Developers had added the proposal after Suslovic requested it.
In a 5-2 vote, the council supported the mega-berth idea. Both firms propose building a hotel, office building and other amenities on the 7-acre pier site.
For many who spoke at the public hearing, the selection of a developer came down to two issues: design and money.
Supporters of Ocean Properties said the firm has the deep pockets to fund the construction of a fixed pier, which would cost more than $10 million, and to redevelop and repair the Maine State Pier.
Former Councilor Will Gorham said Ocean Properties� connections in the cruise industry and its experience running a cruise port would help it lure more ships to Portland and create jobs.
Supporters of Olympia Cos. said it has a superior design. Portland resident Margaret Kelsey said she liked the �holistic� approach that Olympia Cos. undertook in its design, which featured a 2-acre park.
�The waterfront belongs to the people,� she said. �It�s not just the working waterfront.�
All three of the open seats are now held by supporters of Ocean Properties: Cloutier, Duson and Carr. Only Carr is not seeking re-election.
After the meeting, Bob Baldacci of Ocean Properties appeared disappointed.
�This is not a loss for Ocean Properties,� he said. �This is a loss for the city of Portland.�
Kevin Mahaney, president of Olympia Cos., said he did not see the deadlock as a victory, although he and members of his team appeared pleased by the outcome.
�We look forward to seeing what happens. That�s all I can say,� Mahaney said.
The council will meet on Nov. 5, and reconsideration of the Maine State Pier issue is on the agenda.
The redevelopment of the state pier has vexed the council since June, when its Community Development Committee recommended that the council pick Ocean Properties.
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: email@example.com
Monday, September 17, 2007
Council to take initial vote on pier developer
A close vote is expected tonight, and it's possible neither proposal will win.
By TOM BELL Staff Writer September 17, 2007
The Portland City Council will vote tonight for the first time on choosing a developer for the Maine State Pier.
Two companies, Ocean Properties of Portsmouth, N.H., and Olympia Cos. of Portland, have submitted proposals to build a hotel, office building and other facilities on the seven-acre site.
Councilors say the vote will be close, and it's possible that neither developer will prevail. "We'll end up with one or the other, both or neither," said Councilor David Marshall.
A developer needs five votes to move to the next step, which is negotiations with the city for the right to lease the pier. Because only eight members are voting, a deadlock is possible. Councilor Jim Cohen has recused himself because he and Mike Saxl, a consultant for Olympia Cos., work for the same law firm.
The City Council will take up two competing orders. One is from the Community Development Committee, which voted 2-1 to recommend that the city enter negotiations with Ocean Properties. The other is an order sponsored by Marshall that the council enter negotiations with Olympia Cos.
The winner will then negotiate with City Manager Joe Gray and the Community Development Committee.
The developer will have to return to the council for approval, and that won't happen until after the elections on Nov. 6, Marshall said. There are three contested council seats.
Marshall said the election ultimately will determine what happens to the Maine State Pier.
Councilor Jim Cloutier said a deadlocked vote will likely cause one or both of the developers to drop out because uncertainty and delay are making the deal less financially appealing compared with other opportunities outside the state.
He also said economic turmoil in the financial markets may cause the developers to rethink their plans for Portland.
"If the council can't get to a decision," he said, "it's likely that the project will simply not go forward."
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
August 7, 2007
City plans showing the Maine State Pier, left, and Ocean Gateway, at right, with the megaberth, below right. (image/City of Portland)
Maine State Pier deal excludes Ocean Gateway – or does it?
By Chris Busby
Buried deep in the now towering stack of documents about potential redevelopment of the Maine State Pier is a short paragraph that could turn the entire process upside-down.
It's in a June 14 memo to the Portland City Council's Community Development Committee – cc'd to City Manager Joe Gray and top city planning and finance staff – from Portland Ports and Transportation Director Jeff Monroe.
Monroe's five-page report outlines significant questions and concerns regarding how the two private developers vying to remake the pier plan to handle traffic, passengers, and public access at the site. He ends with this…
"It is unfortunate that we had insufficient funding for the megaberth (Pier 2 – Berth 2 and 3). If this berth was available and was used for primary cruise ship operations, all of the operational issues at the Portland Ocean Terminal (Maine State Pier Berth 1) would be mute and the process would be much less complicated."
Less complicated, indeed – if not wholly unnecessary.
The "megaberth" has long been planned as part of the city's Ocean Gateway marine passenger terminal next to the Maine State Pier. This long dock could handle vessels of 1,000 feet or longer – the length of most new ships in the cruise market these days.
In the works for nearly a decade, Ocean Gateway is expected to be operational next year. But after an extensive public planning process, construction cost estimates turned out to be way off the mark – originally projected to be a $15-$18 million project, the price tag reached nearly $21 million in city, state and federal money.
This cost increase put plans to build the megaberth on hold, so Ocean Gateway will be limited to serving the CAT high-speed casino ferry and smaller cruise ships at its single, shorter berth next summer. The Maine State Pier will still be used to berth longer cruise ships, as well as large military vessels and tankers in need of fresh water, supplies and repairs.
If the Maine State Pier is to continue to be the primary berth for big ships for years to come, it will need to be reinforced to withstand the structural stress these large vessels create when tied to its dock. It could cost several million dollars to sufficiently strengthen the pier for this purpose.
That cost is a primary reason the city is considering private development of the public pier. The two bidders, Ocean Properties and The Olympia Companies, propose to spend their own money to repair and maintain the pier's pilings and decking, but say they need to build over $80 million worth of commercial real estate at the site (including hotels, office buildings, restaurants and parking) to cover those costs.
The traffic, pedestrian and security issues created by all this new development – issues brought up in Monroe's June 14 report – are still largely unresolved, at least from the city's perspective. By contrast, Ocean Gateway already has the facilities and layout designed to accommodate traffic, public access, and marine passenger security.
And compared to the cost estimates for rebuilding the Maine State Pier, the megaberth is a bargain. "It's not that expensive," said Monroe. "The megaberth is only about $6 million."
In fact, the city initially considered building Ocean Gateway at the Maine State Pier, but traffic and engineering studies convinced officials that constructing a new facility with a megaberth two blocks east of the pier was the wiser course.
"Both developers are facing what the city faced in 2000: how to make the Maine State Pier work more effectively by keeping [cruise ship] operations there," said Monroe. "Both have come back and they think it's a very good idea to build the megaberth and alleviate pressures on the Maine State Pier, which I personally think is a good idea."
"Captain Monroe makes a compelling case to look at the megaberth and moving some of that traffic further [east] down Commercial Street," said Ocean Properties executive and project spokesman Bob Baldacci, brother of Gov. John Baldacci. "Traffic and parking are huge issues."
City officials still hope the megaberth will be built. Gray said the city lobbied Gov. Baldacci's office to have $6-$8 million included in this year's state bond package for its construction. But convincing state lawmakers to ask voters to borrow more money for cruise ship operations in Portland "has just been very difficult, if not impossible, to do," said Gray.
Both private development teams have offered to build the megaberth with their own money as part of their pitch to lease the Maine State Pier. Both have further suggested the city consider allowing them to operate Ocean Gateway. (In its original proposal for the pier, Olympia even floated the idea of taking over the International Marine Terminal, the city-owned facility at the other end of the waterfront that handles cargo and currently hosts the CAT ferry.)
The fate of the megaberth has huge implications for the Maine State Pier's future. But the idea of even discussing a deal that includes the megaberth with Ocean Properties or Olympia has become radioactive in City Hall.
That's because Ocean Gateway is not part of the official Request for Proposals (RFP) the city publicized last fall for the Maine State Pier property. To throw Ocean Gateway or the megaberth into the mix at this stage could cause a public uproar even more intense than the ongoing scandal over the city's handling of the pier RFP process thus far.
(As detailed in our July 11 article [see "Threats and confusion plague state pier process"], the Olympia team and some city councilors object to the Community Development Committee's decision to consider major changes Ocean Properties made to its proposal after the Feb. 22 submission deadline. The committee subsequently voted 2-1 to recommend that the city negotiate with Ocean Properties first. Olympia has threatened legal action. During last night's informational workshop session on the proposals, councilors argued again over the legality of considering OP's altered plan.)
Most councilors reached for comment said discussion of Ocean Gateway and the megaberth is "off the table" during this process.
"That sounds to me like a separate transaction," said Councilor Jim Cloutier. "If we build the megaberth, fine, but that's not the purpose of this operation… We're trying to get $20 million invested in [the repair and maintenance of] the Maine State Pier and collect a rent check."
"At this point, I don't think it'd be appropriate to consider Ocean Gateway and the megaberth," said Councilor Dave Marshall. "To do anything except what's in the RFP would be a violation of what's in our written [RFP] document."
Marshall and several other councilors said the city would likely have to issue a separate RFP for the private operation of Ocean Gateway or construction of the megaberth. But the legal issues at stake are unclear.
City attorney Gary Wood declined to comment on the legalities involved. "I'm not going to answer those types of questions," he told The Bollard before last night's workshop session. His tone and expression suggested a wariness to further stoke contention over the RFP process.
Councilor Jill Duson, a member of the Community Development Committee, expressed the same wariness, but added, "I suppose as the full Council goes through the process, it's possible they would expand the discussion to include [the megaberth]… If a majority of the Council wishes to expand the discussion, that would be fine with me."
Duson – who, with Cloutier, endorsed OP as the recommended developer during the committee vote – placed more importance in moving the RFP process along. "The two camps and our constituents deserve for us to make a decision as to who we're going to negotiate with, and move forward and get this project done," she said.
For others, however, the prospect of building the megaberth is cause to pause the RFP process and consider the wider implications of the Maine State Pier's redevelopment.
"Crucify me for stepping back and saying Ocean Gateway was not in the RFP process," said Councilor Ed Suslovic, "but I think it would not be serving the city of Portland very well to look at this project in a vacuum."
"If both developers are hinting that we really ought to be including Ocean Gateway in here, maybe we do need to go back and say, ‘In order to be fair to all involved, we're gong to do a new RFP, because it doesn't make sense to talk about berthing cruise ships at the Maine State Pier without the possibility [of including Ocean Gateway in the deal],'" Suslovic added.
Of course, Olympia and OP have already done much more than hint about expanding and operating Ocean Gateway – they've specifically offered, in writing and during presentations, to do just that.
"It's obviously something [city officials] have to think about, because both facilities should be integrated," said Olympia spokesman Sasha Cook.
The RFP does ask developers to "discuss ideas and accommodations" for vehicle queuing lanes at Ocean Gateway as part of their pier plans, but there's no mention of operating the facility or building new berthing space there.
Cook is among those who think consideration of further development or private operation of Ocean Gateway "falls outside of this current RFP… The city would probably get the greatest value if they did a separate RFP for the megaberth," he said.
Councilor Kevin Donoghue, who cast the dissenting vote on the OP recommendation at the committee level, agrees that Ocean Gateway and the megaberth should be "off the table" during this RFP process. "To increase the spoils for a political outcome would not be a good idea, to my mind," he said.
Former planning board member John Anton, a City Council candidate and vocal critic of the city's approach to the pier, said discussion of the megaberth highlights the need to consider the broader impacts of the Maine State Pier's redevelopment.
The private developers are proposing to spend upwards of $20 million to repair and reinforce the Maine State Pier so it can support the full scope of their plans. "You could do the megaberth for $13 million cheaper and it would flow better into Ocean Gateway, which is intended to serve that purpose," said Anton.
"Let's just call a time-out," Anton added. "Take six months and make sure we're on the right course."
Chris Busby is editor and publisher of The Bollard. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City's planners prefer Olympia plan for pier
They tell city councilors that it meets more of Portland's design guidelines than Ocean Properties' plan.
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By JOSIE HUANG Staff Writer August 14, 2007
One of the firms bidding to make over Portland's Maine State Pier by building a hotel, offices and other facilities has found early favor among some city councilors, but a rival company is getting higher marks for its design work.
City planners said Olympia Cos. of Portland meets more of the city's design guidelines for the eastern waterfront than front- runner Ocean Properties Ltd. of Portsmouth, N.H., according to a presentation Monday at a City Council workshop.
Olympia's designs are contemporary and contain environmentally friendly elements such as green roofs and natural ventilation, planners wrote, yet blend in well with historic buildings on Commercial Street.
The city's one major criticism has to do with permitting. Planning Division Director Alex Jaegerman said there are questions about whether Olympia can get state approval for a proposal to put the hotel on filled land, which is generally reserved for marine-related projects.
"They showed that they can relocate the hotel, but that hasn't been evaluated yet," Jaegerman said after the meeting. He and the city's urban planner, Carrie Marsh, co-wrote the review.
Ocean Properties has "a number" of design problems, according to the review, even though it has made "significant changes" to its proposal over the last several months.
The review points out that Ocean Properties has set its hotel and office building back from Commercial Street, separated from the sidewalk by a plaza and a drop-off area.
As a result, major entrances for the hotel and offices would not open onto sidewalks, as called for by the city's Eastern Waterfront Design Guidelines, adopted in 2005.
"The proposed office and hotel buildings are conceptual in design but do not yet provide signature architecture that will promote the City of Portland as a world-class seaport," according to the review.
Design will be one of several major factors that city councilors will have to consider when they choose between the two proposals for the 7-acre pier.
Each project projected to cost $100 million and include restaurants, access for vessels and green space.
Other issues include the financing for the plans -- the topic of an executive session after Monday's council workshop -- and the project's effect on marine operations.
When the city's ports and transportation director, Jeff Monroe, talked to councilors on Monday about the projects' effect on the waterfront, he did not say whether one proposal would be better than the other.
But he did stress that both firms should think more about how to support the pedestrian traffic flowing off cruise ships docked at the pier.
Space must be provided for dozens of tour buses and cabs in a way that does not clog the intersection of Commercial Street and Franklin Arterial, Monroe said.
Monroe also suggested that building a mega-berth off site to accommodate large ships would reduce wear and tear on the Maine State Pier and reduce dredging costs.
A mega-berth already is proposed for the Ocean Gateway project, but the city does not have the $6 million or so that Monroe said it would cost to build. Councilors started to wonder aloud whether the companies could incorporate the mega-berth into their projects.
"It seems like a much wiser investment to invest in a mega-berth than to invest in dredging around the Maine State Pier," said Councilor David Marshall.
"From a marine operations perspective," Monroe responded, "it would be much to our advantage."
The workshop was the last of two before a public hearing tentatively scheduled during a City Council meeting on Sept. 5. A council vote could follow.
Last month, the council's three-member community development committee voted 2-1 to recommend the Ocean Properties plan, whose leaders include former Sen. George Mitchell and Robert Baldacci, brother of Gov. John Baldacci.
Olympia Cos. is led by the developer Kevin Mahaney.
Staff Writer Josie Huang can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:
Thursday, August 09, 2007
By News 8 WMTW
POSTED: 4:06 am EDT August 9, 2007
UPDATED: 5:37 am EDT August 9, 2007
PORTLAND, Maine -- Two Portland city councilors said they want to hear from residents about plans to redevelop the Maine State Pier.Councilors Kevin Donoghue and David Marshall held a public forum Wednesday night at the Merrill Auditorium rehearsal hall.The debate did not focus on the two plans city leaders are considering. Instead, the discussion focused on whether the city should slow down and make sure there are no other ideas for the pier that have been overlooked.
Councilor David Marshall said, "A lot of our public debate has been pigeonholed to either/or, and we want to reconnect and get some more input from our constituents as far as where we are going with this. Are we on the right track? And what are your thoughts?"
The two proposals being considered by the city council were submitted by Ocean Properties and Olympia Cos. Each plan includes a hotel, retail space, restaurants and more.Wednesday night's meeting was separate from the workshops the city council has been holding.
Copyright 2007 by WMTW. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
City Councilors Kevin Donoghue and David Marshall, who represent Portland's peninsula neighborhoods, in the interest of embracing a healthier lifestyle, have taken to late-night bicycle jaunts. Their ride on the evening of July 6 ended with each needing a new tire, after their rear wheels locked together. Neither one of these men has a car, so this was a major obstacle to their getting around the city. Marshall is an artist, who can be seen on Portland's streets painting landscapes.
I was kneeling on the ground by the mailbox, taking photographs, when Kevin appeared, holding a bicycle wheel. Sensing a political "scoop," I questioned him and found out about the bicycle mishap, which I've just shared with you.
I asked where he was going and he said he was on his way to get a new wheel, at the bicycle shop at the bottom of Munjoy Hill. Being true to my nature as a pushy broad, I asked if I might accompany him on this journey and he said I could.
When we got to the destination, CycleMania, there was David Marshall, removing the rear wheel of his bike. He'd rolled the damaged bicycle over there, and he'd brought his little dog Mocha with him.
The guys entered the bike store, each with a wheel under an arm. It was going to be an easy "fix"; just get a new wheel, attach it, and you're ready to roll around Portland once again.
The happiness on their faces turned to dismay when the man behind the counter returned from the back room to announce that he only had one wheel in stock. "You'd better have a coin toss, fellas," was his advice to the civic leaders.
Councilor Marshall won with his call of "heads," and Councilor Donoghue left, still carrying his broken wheel, heading to Back Bay Bicycle, located about a mile away. This reporter declined his invitation to accompany him on that sojourn. "I'm too old to walk that far," I said.
I trudged back up the big hill to my home and furiously typed up the hot story for my editor, the noble Ed King of The West End NEWS.
I called Kevin Sunday morning, to find out whether he was able to get his new wheel at Back Bay Bicycle. He said he did. Not only did he leave the store with the desired wheel, he also met someone there who gave him a ride home. How delightful, a story with a happy ending! Pedal on, guys.
Monday, July 16, 2007
July 11, 2007
Skateboarding law on the bubble
By Justin Ellis
It looks like the city of Portland is taking baby steps towards decriminalizing skateboarding. Last night the City Council’s Public Safety Committee unanimously voted to recommend changing the law that makes riding skateboards on downtown streets illegal.
The recommendation still must be voted on by the full City Council before it can go into effect. The council holds its regular meeting on Monday.
If it does become law, skateboarders would be subject to the same laws as bicyclists who use the roads.
Councilor David Marshall, chairman of the public safety committee, said the city has two conflicting ordinances on skateboarding. Under one ordinance skateboarding and skating are listed as sports ( "such as ball playing") that are not allowed to be played in city streets.In another ordinance skateboards, like bikes (and apparently sleds?), are allowed on streets if they follow the laws of the road:
"Every person riding a bicycle or skateboard, or rollerskating upon a roadway shall be granted all the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a motor vehicle by the laws of this state declaring rules of the road applicable to motor vehicles or by the traffic ordinances of this city applicable to the driver of a vehicle..."
Marshall said it was unrealistic for the city to think they could get skateboarders off the street with a law, and difficult for police who are busy with other issues.
Marshall said the new law would treat skateboarding just like any other form of transportation."Instead of saying no skateboarding at all, it’s saying you can skateboard but do it in a manner that is safe," Marshall said.
The issue was brought forward by Shane McGarvey, one of the owners of Cream Apparel, a sneaker shop on Market Street. McGarvey and his wife, co-owner Michelle McGarvey, have been frequent advocates for skateboarding and sponsors of skateboarding events. Police stopped McGarvey earlier this summer while he was skateboarding to work and issued him a citation.
Marshall said skateboarding has been getting a lot of attention this summer largely because of the absence of the skate park on Marginal Way.
"If it passes the council it will represent a win for skateboarders," Marshall said.
Posted by at 11:46 AM
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
The hardball tactics that were utilized by Councilors Donoghue, Leeman, Duson, and I have lead to a much better deal for the City of Portland. Just minutes before the Council meeting on June 18th, the final details were presented to the Council by the City Staff.
The new deal will save the City $1 million in subsidies over the next 20 years. Unlike the original deal, the Sea Dogs will take out the loan to pay for the $1.7 million clubhouse instead of the City. Additionally, the Sea Dogs will take responsibility for field maintenance in trade for parking revenues.
The City Council passed the new deal that will provide $1.7 million to the Sea Dogs over the next 20 years, which equals just over $85,000 each year. In the original deal the City would have provided $150,000 per year for the same period of time.
City Manager Joe Gray estimated that it would cost the City around $60,000 per year to maintain the physical infrastructure of Hadlock Field even if the Sea Dogs were not leasing the field. As the field is owned by the City, the subsidy to the Sea Dogs has been shrunk to just $25,000 per year once the infrastructure costs are subtracted.
On May 21st the Council postponed action on the original deal due to lack of support. Seven votes out of nine were needed to pass the City bond of $1.7 million in the original deal. Councilor Duson was still undecided and Councilors Donoghue, Leeman, and I refused to vote for the deal if it included subsidies for the Sea Dogs and the City bond.
Now the Sea Dogs will take the risk on the 20-year bond for the new clubhouse and pay the financing on the bond instead of the City. Additionally, the City will not have to pay for the bond out of the Capital Improvements Program, which would have taken up 17% of this year’s CIP. The City has a self-imposed cap of $10 million for the CIP that pays all of the infrastructure maintenance in Portland.
Councilor Dave Marshall
June 19, 2007
Have bat, will bargain: Sea Dogs mascot Slugger. (photo/Chris Busby) Sea Dogs win clubhouse in extra innings
Team gives up $1M in last-minute pitch
By Chris Busby
The Portland Sea Dogs will get their new clubhouse, but the team had to shave over $1 million from its new 20-year contract with the city to keep playing on publicly owned Hadlock Field. As part of a last-minute pitch to win City Council approval of the clubhouse, the team had also agreed to pay for it, rather than ask the city to borrow money for the project.
Portland Maine Baseball, Inc., the company that owns the minor league franchise, will pay the city an annual rent of $150,000 during the first five full years of the new deal. By the year 2024, the Dogs' lease will be $225,000. The team is taking over maintenance of the field and bearing that cost, too, though the city is giving them nearly $70,000 worth of maintenance equipment and about $75,000 in parking revenues every year.
Still, overall, the city's costs under the new deal decline over the next two decades compared to previous proposals floated by the team.
Portland Maine Baseball (PMB) originally asked city officials to borrow $1.7 million for a new home-team clubhouse under right field – and said the clubhouse deal could make or break the team's affiliation with the Boston Red Sox. [See "Sea Dogs want new clubhouse, or else," March 22, News.]
Several city councilors expressed concern that borrowing for the team's private clubhouse this year would delay funding for public improvement projects like roads, sidewalks and schools. The council has a self-imposed cap that limits bonding for such projects at $10 million per year. Some councilors also voiced objection to the city subsidizing the for-profit enterprise at a time of tight municipal budgets.
In the end, the city scored on both points.
Having realized they lacked the super-majority of seven council votes necessary to pass the bond order, the team dropped that plan and proposed paying for the clubhouse itself last week. But as late as this weekend, the deal on the table before councilors would have required the city to continue to maintain the field for the Dogs and for high school baseball games at Hadlock. Together with other expenses and lease arrangements, the cost to the city over 20 years would have approached $3 million. That's almost $1 million more than taxpayers would have shelled out under the original proposal involving a bond.
The deal approved Monday night will cost the city $1.7 million over 20 years – perhaps coincidentally, the same cost to construct the clubhouse.
Assistant City Manager Anita LaChance said "feedback" from councilors last Friday – when terms of the previous proposal were made public in advance of Monday's council meeting – prompted renegotiations early Monday morning. Councilors received the revised lease proposal just minutes before their special afternoon session, which began at 5 p.m.
Sea Dogs president and general manager Charlie Eshbach conceded to councilors that with Monday's revised deal, PMB had "made a financial commitment far in excess of what we were comfortable with" when the process began in March.
Several members of the public spoke against the latest arrangement, citing the ongoing subsidy, and representatives of several local non-profits that benefit from Sea Dog-related charity work spoke in favor of the latest proposal.
The new lease was unanimously approved.
Chris Busby is editor and publisher of The Bollard. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Written and compiled by Chris Busby
June 19, 2007
Skate park hung up again
It’ll be at least another month before the Portland City Council votes on whether to build a new skate park at the Dougherty Field sports complex in Libbytown. On Monday night, councilors sent the matter back to the Health and Human Services Committee, which meets Thursday to consider soil testing results from an alternative site by Back Cove.
The committee was ordered to report back to the council for its July 16 meeting, and to hold a public meeting between neighbors and skate park users in the meantime.
As The Bollard reported last month [see “Skate park scuttlebutt,” May 21, News], skateboarders, freestyle BMX bikers and downtown business owners alike have been frustrated by the lack of progress on the park. The process of selecting a new site began two years ago, and the previous public skate park on Marginal Way was removed this past winter (city officials cite “safety reasons” for its removal), prompting some skaters and bikers to take to the streets, parks and sidewalks, instead.
Some neighbors oppose a new skate park at Dougherty Field, citing concerns about noise and traffic. Several who spoke at Monday night’s meeting pointed out that a conceptual “master plan” for the site, completed over five years ago, does not include plans for a skate park.
“The council is being asked to ignore and trample on” the work that went into that plan, said City Councilor Ed Suslovic, a member of the Health and Human Services Committee.
Councilor Jim Cohen, another committee member, said he was concerned about the process by which the site came up for a vote last night. Cohen said he was “very disappointed” to learn through the media that a vote on the Dougherty Field location was on Monday’s agenda. His committee has not yet made a recommendation regarding a new park site.
In addition to consideration of the Back Cove site, the council may also weigh the possibility a new elementary school could be built at Dougherty Field. A joint city council/school board committee (called the “3x3 Committee”) is considering possible options to consolidate elementary schools, and Dougherty Field – located adjacent to the school department’s West School Program for students with behavioral and emotional challenges – is among two places being eyed for new construction.
That process, however, is unlikely to be finished by next month.
Despite the delay, the Dougherty Field site appears to have majority support on the council.
The Back Cove site has several major drawbacks, including the fact that, unlike Dougherty Field, where unused and dilapidated tennis courts would make way for a skate park, the coveside location would displace a grassy practice field used by youth and high school soccer teams. There may also be what city Parks & Recreation Department Director Denise Clavette termed “wetlands issues.”
“Elected mayor” dream deferred
Also on Monday, the Portland City Council deferred action on an order to ask voters whether to set up a charter commission – a body that could recommend the reestablishment of a directly elected mayor.
Councilors Dave Marshall and Kevin Donoghue had proposed to begin the commission process this fall, after having earlier failed to win council support to send a variation of the “elected mayor” idea directly to voters in November. [See “The Commish, then the Mayor?,” June 5, News Briefs, below.]
Councilor Ed Suslovic suggested the city first try to change the state law governing such commissions next year, and he ultimately got support from most councilors – including Donoghue and Marshall – to pursue that route, instead. (Councilors Donna Carr, Jill Duson, Cheryl Leeman and Jim Cohen opposed the motion to refer the matter to the council’s Legislative Committee, which Suslovic chairs.)
Among the concerns with the state law Suslovic raised is its stipulation that a charter commission be elected within 90 days of voters approving its creation. Suslovic and others oppose the idea introduced by Marshall and Donoghue to hold a vote on the commission’s formation and its members at the same time. Under that scenario, it’s possible for voters to “elect” charter commissioners while simultaneously rejecting the idea of creating the commission in the first place, as happened a few years ago when a county charter commission was put before the public and voted down.
Suslovic would seek a change in state law to allow municipalities to hold the election for commission members on the next “regular” election day – in June or November – following approval of its creation. He also favors giving cities more flexibility to determine how many commissioners to elect, and whether those commissioners are elected at-large, by all city voters, or by individual council districts.
Councilor Jim Cloutier said he likes the idea of a commission elected the same way voters choose councilors – four are elected at-large and five represent individual districts. Without changes in state law, “we’re going to have a stupid charter commission,” he said.
It would be next spring, at the earliest, before the state took action on any proposed changes to the law. A vote to establish a charter commission would then not likely take place until next November, at the earliest – with, if voters approve it, an election of commission members in June of 2009.
Voters would go to the polls again to weigh in on any changes to city government put forth by the commission. That vote could be at least three years down the road.
Council postpones ruling on new skate park
The City Council decided Monday to delay for a month a decision on where to build a new skate park.
The council unanimously referred the question to its health and recreation committee, which has been studying the issue for several months. The committee is expected to provide a recommendation to the full council by July 16.
City workers removed the skate park on Marginal Way a few months ago to make way for redevelopment in Bayside. Two locations under consideration for a new park are Dougherty Field, between Douglass and St. James streets, and a field off Preble Street Extension, near Back Cove Trail.
Councilors asked the committee to make sure property owners in both areas have a chance to comment on the issue before making a recommendation. The committee plans to meet at 5 p.m. Thursday in Room 303 at City Hall.
Panel to weigh benefits of elected city mayor
The City Council`s legislative committee will consider the question of electing a charter commission to study possible changes to the city charter, including having an elected mayor.
Councilors David Marshall and Kevin Donoghue want to put the question on the November ballot.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
The Commish, then the Mayor?
The odds are good that Portland voters will be asked to decide this November whether or not to elect a special commission to study changes to the City Charter, including the possibility of reinstituting the position of a directly elected mayor with expanded governing powers.
The odds of voters approving such a commission, however, are anybody's guess.
Councilors Dave Marshall and Kevin Donoghue are promoting the commission after previously opposing the idea. The pair, both Green Independents who represent districts on the peninsula, tried unsuccessfully earlier this year to convince their colleagues to put a different measure on this fall's ballot.
That measure would have created a so-called "weak mayor" – one directly elected by voters, rather than appointed by councilors from amongst themselves, but with no greater authority than the post currently carries. [See "Council Greens push for elected mayor," Feb. 27, in News.] A "strong mayor" would have more authority, such as veto power or direct management of the city budget, but any change that alters the balance of power between councilors can only be made after a charter commission is elected and formed to recommend changes.
The commission's determinations are not predictable – for example, it may or may not recommend any changes, or could propose an even more radical restructuring of city government. Marshall and Donoghue opposed forming a commission partly for that reason, but they now say subsequent discussions with constituent groups have led them to believe it's the more popular, and practical, way to go.
The Council will consider whether to put the question on this November's ballot at its June 18 meeting. The order would also set this coming election day, Nov. 6, as the date voters would choose who will serve on the commission – should a majority also vote to form it that day. As proposed, there would be eight members – five elected from each of the city electoral districts, and three appointed by the Council.
Marshall and Donoghue were the only councilors to support holding a "weak mayor" vote, but it appears there's majority support for a charter commission that could lead to a "strong mayor." Councilors Jim Cloutier, Ed Suslovic and Jill Duson have all expressed general support for the idea of at least asking voters whether they wish to form a charter commission.
Councilor Cheryl Leeman is among those opposed to even putting the question before the local electorate. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Leeman said of city government. She decried "all these people with their personal agendas… special interest agendas" who support major changes in the mayorship.
Efforts to reinstitute a directly elected mayor have surfaced repeatedly over the past half-century or so, most recently 10 years ago, when voters rejected a measure to form a charter commission. Lawn signs depicting a corrupt-looking chief executive helped dissuade Portlanders from endorsing the commission, people on both sides recall.
"I will dust off my campaign signs," Leeman vowed. "No – big no."
Handling of land in Bayside questioned
Two councilors call for clearer rules regarding the city's process of selling and leasing its property.
© Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. :ap -->June 12, 2007
— By KELLEY BOUCHARD
Two Portland city councilors are questioning the process being used to sell city-owned land in the Bayside neighborhood.
Councilors Kevin Donoghue and David Marshall say they are unhappy with the way Portland has been handling the disposition of city property in general, including the ongoing review of long-term lease proposals for the Maine State Pier.
Typically, when the city has a large property for sale, it advertises a request for detailed, written proposals. They are due on a certain date and are reviewed publicly based on measurable criteria, such as building design, intended use and payment.
For the Bayside property, the city hired a real estate agent, CBRE/The Boulos Co., through competitive bidding, to market 3.5 acres of former railroad land on Somerset Street.
Boulos negotiated offers from six potential buyers, and the City Council's community development committee voted 3-0 last week to recommend one to the full council.
The committee backed Atlantic Redevelopment Co., which offered $3 million and plans to build a parking garage, housing and as many as three office buildings.
City officials gave a few details about the other offers, excluding financial information they said was deemed confidential by the agent. City officials who are familiar with each proposal said Atlantic offered the most money and the most comprehensive plan, including a 64-unit housing complex.
At a workshop on Monday, councilors were told they could learn more about the other offers if they agreed to keep it confidential.
The state's right to know law allows private negotiations on public lands, with the understanding that details of those talks become public when negotiations end.
Councilor James Cloutier, chairman of the community development committee, said the goal in marketing the property through an agent rather than a city-generated request for proposals was to get the most money for the land. City officials decided to let existing zoning and market demand decide what would be built.
That rationale doesn't satisfy Donoghue and Marshall. Both plan to support Atlantic's proposal but don't like the way the public has been excluded from full disclosure and having a say in the process. Both were elected in November, after city officials decided how to sell the Bayside land.
"I'm concerned about the lack of transparency," Marshall said after the workshop. "It's the public's land. For the council to simply say we're getting the best deal isn't enough."
Donoghue said he doesn't want another barrier, in this case a real estate agent, between him and his constituents. He called Atlantic's effort to satisfy the city's call for mixed-use redevelopment in Bayside an "accident" because the city didn't demand it.
"Having a broker market the property reduces the process to a business transaction, when in fact we are setting land-use policy for Bayside," Donoghue said after the workshop.
Both Donoghue and Marshall believe the city should issue requests for proposals whenever large parcels of land and the future of a neighborhood are at stake. However, neither has much faith in how the city handles requests for proposals.
They oppose the latitude that the community development committee has given to one of two firms that are competing to lease and redevelop the Maine State Pier. The three-member committee, chaired by Cloutier, consists of Donoghue and Councilor Jill Duson as well.
Ocean Properties Ltd. started changing its plan soon after the proposals were submitted in February. The latest is a $100 million redesign to be considered at the committee's next public hearing, at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the pier. The Olympia Cos.' $90 million proposal remains largely unchanged. Both are seeking 99-year leases.
In March, Cloutier and Duson agreed to let Ocean Properties alter its proposal, while Donoghue said he would judge the initial submissions.
The committee is expected to make a recommendation to the council in July. In the meantime, Marshall joins Donoghue in calling for clearer rules for how the city handles its property.
"I'd like to see us develop better guidelines for land disposition in general," Marshall said.
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:
Trio will force council's hand on skate park
Portland's mayor and two councilors plan to demand a decision on a location at a meeting on
By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Staff Writer © Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. :ap -->
June 11, 2007
A year ago, skateboarding advocates worried that Portland's skate park on Marginal Way would be removed long before a new skate park was built.
They were right.
The skate park -- a few rotted, wooden ramps on a paved lot -- was removed earlier this spring to make way for private development of former city-owned land in the Bayside neighborhood.
Now skateboarders in Portland have nowhere to practice their sport but the streets, where it's illegal, and the City Council hasn't figured out where to build a new park as promised two years ago. Mayor Nicholas Mavodones Jr. and councilors David Marshall and Kevin Donoghue plan to force the issue June 18, when they will ask the council to make a decision one way or another.
"We're really creating a double-jeopardy situation for our youth," Marshall said Friday. "They aren't supposed to skate in the streets, but where else do they have? It's not a good way to make our city friendly to our youth." Topping the list of possible sites is Dougherty Field, between St. James and Douglass streets, near the former West Elementary School. A task force of skateboarding advocates and parks and recreation officials settled on the site last year. The skate park would replace abandoned tennis courts beside Interstate 295 and near bus routes.
"It's the best location we've come up with so far," Marshall said.
Councilors Donna Carr and Edward Suslovic, who live near West School, have expressed concern about the effect a skate park would have on their neighbors.
A joint panel of councilors and School Committee members is considering the West School site as a possible location for a new elementary school.
Marshall said the tennis courts are at the far corner of the West School parcel and wouldn't interfere with development of a new school at the site.
Another site under consideration is an open field on Preble Street Extension, near Back Cove Trail and beside I-295.
Building a poured-concrete skate park on that site may be costly and difficult, however, because underground utilities cross the property and the land is a filled tidal area, said Thomas Civiello, assistant director of parks and recreation.
Civiello said several sites remain open to consideration. The task force reviewed all of them thoroughly last year.
When city officials choose a location, it could take two years to fund, design and build the park that skaters have in mind.
Barring private contributions and donations of labor and materials, a poured-concrete skate park could cost Portland taxpayers as much as $300,000. Similar parks have been built in several other Maine communities.
The city borrowed $75,000 last fall for the skate park and $100,000 in 2005 for the same purpose. Skateboarding advocates have raised about $12,000, but securing additional funding has proved frustrating.
"We can't apply for grants if we can't say where we're going to build it," said Eli Cayer, a real estate broker and skateboarder who is planning several fundaisers this summer. "If they tell us where, we can make this happen."
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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