Saturday, March 31, 2007

Full-Time Elected Mayor Referendum

On April 30th, the Portland City Council will be voting on the Full-Time Elected Mayor Referendum sponsored by Councilor Donoghue and Councilor Marshall. The meeting starts at 7 pm in the Council Chambers of City Hall. If the Council votes in favor, then a referendum will be placed on the November ballot. If the Council votes against the Elected Mayor Referendum, then we will need to gather 5,200+ petition signatures necessary to put the Referendum on the November ballot.

Portland is one of three cities in Maine that does not vote for a mayor. All twenty-two of the other cities in Maine elect their mayor. If the people of Portland vote in favor of the Full-Time Elected Mayor Referendum in November, then the mayoral election will be held in November of 2008 for the first time in over 85 years.

We need a full-time elected mayor to advocate for Portland in state and national levels. Recent State funding for schools left Portland with a merger piece of the pie. Portland came in dead last for funding with 19% of our school budget to be paid by the State with the rest of the tax burden for our property taxes. All of the other cities in the state will enjoy State assistance between 31% and 97% of their school budgets.

The passage of the Full-Time Elected Mayor Referendum will amend the City Charter to make the City Council give up its power to choose the mayor for one-year terms and give the voters the power choose the mayor for three-year terms and guarantee a city-wide mandate. Our current structure, allows district councilors that do not represent the entire City to be the mayor and the one-year terms force short-term visions and agendas.

The Charter Amendment will change one at-large council seat to be the mayor’s seat, create a full-time position for three year terms. The mayor will maintain the power to conduct the council meetings, make the tie-breaking votes, appoint committee members, and create committees.

Representing Portland with a city-wide mandate, the elected mayor will bring prestige and clout at the state and national arenas that can bring economic benefits to the people of Portland. The elected mayor will have the backing of 65,000 people, a full-time salaried position, and three-year terms to advocate for Portland’s rightful share of state and federal funding. The mayor will provide Portland with long-term leadership and vision.

Another possible way to have an elected mayor would be through a Charter Commission, which requires a referendum vote to initiate the Charter Commission, an election of citizens to re-write the Charter, and another referendum to approve the Charter.

In 1997 there was a referendum vote to initiate a Charter Commission, the first step in the process. The intent of initiating the Charter Commission was to create a strong mayor and take power from the city manager. The voters rejected the idea of initiating a Charter Commission by over 70%.

The Charter Amendment, however, is a direct way for the voters to establish a full-time elected mayor through one referendum vote. As the full-time elected mayor proposal does not alter the power between the city council and the city manager, a Charter Commission is not needed. Therefore the voters will have a clear choice on the 2007 Ballot: Do you want to amend the City Charter to create the position of a Full-Time Elected Mayor?

Please call, email, and attend the April 4th Council Meeting to tell the City Council to put the Full-Time Elected Mayor Referendum on the November ballot so the people can decide how our mayor will be chosen in the future.

Please contact Councilor Marshall with questions or concerns,

David Marshall
Portland City Council
District 2
207.409.6617
damarshall@portlandmaine.gov

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Press Herald

Portland council rejects latest proposal for elected mayor
By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Staff Writer Portland Press Herald Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The City Council soundly rejected a proposal Monday night that could have given Portland voters the ability to elect their mayor.

The 6-2 vote was no surprise to David Marshall and Kevin Donoghue, the councilors who co-sponsored the proposal. They promised to offer an alternative at the next council meeting, on March 19, that could lead to a citywide vote on the issue in November.

A handful of residents offered varied opinions on the issue, which crops up every few years and dates to the 1920s.

"The Portland Taxpayers' Association continues to believe that an elected mayor is the best thing for the city of Portland," said Steven Scharf, the association's president.

"Be careful what you wish for," said Robert Hains of Holm Avenue. "Electing a mayor is not as great as it may sound."

According to the city charter, Portland's nine councilors -- five representing districts and four elected at-large -- choose one of their own to be mayor.

Councilors typically take turns filling the job for one year. The mayor names council committees and runs meetings, but has few other powers or responsibilities.

The proposal by Marshall and Donoghue called for a task force to consider expanding the number of district councilors to eight and having a single at-large seat. The at-large councilor would be mayor, with no more power than any other councilor.

Marshall and Donoghue say a mayor who is elected by voters citywide to a three-year term would bring stability, accountability and legitimacy to City Hall leadership.

While some councilors acknowledged the intent of the proposal, none liked the idea of reducing the number of at-large councilors. Some said such a significant change should start with asking voters to elect a charter commission to review city government as a whole.

"The system we have works well," said Councilor Donna Carr, "but I'm always willing to look at it."

Councilor James Cohen said he believes Portland's council provides balanced leadership but lacks continuity of vision. "People are asking for a vision, and they're asking for that vision to last more than a year."

City attorney Gary Wood determined in 2004, when the taxpayers' group offered a similar proposal, that such changes could be considered without a charter commission.

Marshall and Donoghue said they aren't interested in having a partisan or strong-mayor form of government. They simply want the mayor to be elected by the people.

Marshall said they will propose an alternative on March 19 that would maintain five districts and three at-large council seats. The fourth at-large seat would become the mayor's position. A public hearing and vote on the proposal will be held on April 4, Marshall said.

If the council supports the changes, voters will be asked to consider them. If it doesn't,
Donoghue and Marshall said they plan to gather more than 5,000 signatures of registered voters in 120 days to put the issue on the November ballot.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Forecaster

Councilors want switch to elected mayor
By Kate Bucklin (published: March 01, 2007)
PORTLAND – Freshmen City Councilors David Marshall and Kevin Donoghue will begin a formal campaign this week for the city to have an elected mayor.

Donoghue said he and Marshall believe a popularly elected mayor would be more accountable than the current arrangement at City Hall, where councilors annually select one of their council colleagues to be mayor.

A City Charter amendment is needed to enact the change. There are a few ways to pursue such an amendment, but all routes end with a citywide vote on the proposal.

Marshall and Donoghue said they plan to petition the city clerk Friday to begin a signature-gathering campaign. They would have to gather 5,000 signatures in 120 days to get the measure on the November ballot.

“That is our goal,” Donoghue said.

The two councilors said they have also considered lobbying fellow councilors to support a charter amendment by the council. That way they could avoid having to gather signatures, although a citywide vote would still be held if the council approved the measure.

Donoghue said some councilors have indicated they would support switching to an elected mayor if the council also moved to set up a Charter Commission to study the issue and then make recommendations on changes.

“That would probably lead to a ‘strong mayor,’” Donoghue explained. “Our proposal would keep the mayor’s power as it is now.”

Marshall and Donoghue said they also plan to push for redistricting if their elected-mayor campaign is successful. Donoghue said the initiative includes increasing the number of council districts from the current five to eight – equal to the number of legislative districts in the city – and decreasing the number of at-large seats from four to one.

“That at-large seat would be the mayor,” said Marshall, who represents District 2.

Having smaller districts allows voters more of a voice on the council, Donoghue said. If the islands had their own district, for example, they could have more of a presence on the council, as opposed to being lumped with mainland neighborhoods. Smaller districts also lower the barrier for potential candidates, he said.

What those districts would look like is a decision likely to be made by the whole council, Marshall said.

The mayor’s post is now largely ceremonial and has traditionally been held by a different councilor each year, depending on seniority. Mayor Nick Mavodones is serving his second term as mayor, having previously held the position in 1998. He lobbied for the seat this year, as did Councilor James Cohen, who served as mayor in 2006.

That is not the typical fashion in which councilors have appointed a mayor in the past, but the elections last November shook up the presumed line to the seat.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net.
The Forecaster

Pier proposals a contrast in tactics
By Kate Bucklin (published: March 01, 2007)
A rendering of The Olympia Cos.’ Maine State Pier proposal, with the city’s Ocean Gateway terminal at the right.

Courtesy The Olympia Cos.
PORTLAND – The developers vying for the right to develop the Maine State Pier have similar visions for the 88-year-old structure.

But they are taking different approaches to drumming up support.

Ocean Properties and The Olympia Cos. have each submitted $90 million redevelopment plans for the city-owned pier. Both include a hotel, office building, restaurant space, accommodations for cruise ships and park space.

Olympia is seeking a 75-year lease of the property and proposes $18 million in immediate repair work for the pier, which the city has concluded is failing after years of not being maintained. Olympia wants either tax increment financing for 20 years at $650,000 a year or an $18 million bond. The company estimates the redeveloped property would generate annual taxes of $1 million.

Ocean Properties agrees with the tax estimate and is asking for a 50 percent property tax return annually for 30 years. The company wants a 99-year lease and is offering $11 million for upgrades and work on the pier.

City Councilor Jim Cloutier, chairman of the Community Development Committee – which gets the first crack at the proposals – said this week he expects it will take months for the city to get a firm grasp of the intricacies of each proposal.

“They both off the basic policy we want to advance,” he said. “Better marine access, better public access and repair to the pier itself.”

City Councilor Kevin Donoghue, also a member of the CDC, said he would focus on bringing services for islanders and land-based mass transit in to the mix.

Other councilors zeroed in on the numbers. Councilor David Marshall said he was disappointed both developers are asking for tax breaks to fix the pier.

“The whole point of going forward with rezoning was to not have to use taxpayer money to fix the pier,” he said.

Ocean Properties is a New Hampshire- and Florida-based company with roots in Maine. Its leader, Tom Walsh, runs hotels and ocean-based tourist attractions including Sable Oaks in South Portland and Harborside Hotel & Marina in Bar Harbor. The company is one of the largest private hotel owner-operators in North America, with several properties in Florida and Canada.

The Maine State Pier redevelopment would be the company’s first Portland project, according to Robert Baldacci, Ocean Properties’ vice president of development.

Olympia has offices a block from the pier, and developed the Hilton Garden Inn across the street, along with the Bangor Savings Bank building on the corner of Fore Street and Franklin Arterial. Headed by Kevin Mahaney, Olympia also developed the Doubletree Hotel on Congress Street and is constructing the addition to Custom House Square on Fore Street. Although the company has interests in New Hampshire and Virginia, much of its development has been in Portland.

It is not surprising that the approaches taken by Ocean Properties and Olympia follow a similar scale. Ocean Properties is a hotel giant of sorts, and has big backers including former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, a close friend of Walsh’s, according to Baldacci. Baldacci, of course, is a brother of Gov. John Baldacci. He is also Mitchell’s cousin.

The company has been interested in Portland for several years, Baldacci said, and has been discussing a “world-class” development on the Portland waterfront since the days of the late former City Manager Robert Ganley.

The company began designing plans for the pier and discussing those plans behind the scenes with city officials before the city started the rezoning process, causing some opponents to raise the issue of fairness.

Olympia got a later start on its proposal, waiting until the pier was actually rezoned by the City Council last October. During the four months the city’s Request for Proposals was out, Olympia met with community groups and residents, including Hilary Bassett of Greater Portland Landmarks and Nan Cumming of Portland Trails; business owners Kirk Goodhue and Cyrus Hagge; real estate broker Mark Malone; former mayors Anne Pringle, Nathan Smith and Barbara Vestal; and artist Alice Spencer. Waterfront advocate Nico Walsh, Jaime Parker of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization and Peaks Island resident Chris Hoppin also took part in meetings.

“We felt we did not have to look any farther than Portland for a great team,” said Project Manager Sasa Cook.

The design team was made up of Portland architects, engineers and landscapers.

Ocean Properties worked with TMS Architects of Portsmouth, N.H.; the Maguire Group, a Rhode Island-based engineering company that studied the pier previously for the city; and Yarmouth-based MRLD, a landscape company that has worked on several Portland projects.

The plan from Ocean Properties includes a 200-room hotel on land abutting the pier, a 119,000-square-foot office building on the pier, and a 12,000-square-foot seafood restaurant at the end of the pier next to a 20,000-square-foot public market. There is a 300-car parking garage off the pier and an 80-spot surface parking lot on the pier. Ocean Properties proposed a new pier be built for the tugboats that dock at the Maine State Pier.

Baldacci said the company would also run whale-watching excursions from the pier.

Compass Park remains intact and the company is proposing a rooftop public space at the end of the pier.

Baldacci said Ocean Properties is planning to bring a world-class development to Portland, along with 500 jobs. He said the cruise port included in his company’s plan is the centerpiece.

“It has a fully integrated marine focus,” he said. “We want to inaugurate ferry service linking Portland to Rockland and Bar Harbor.”

The anchor of the Olympia proposal, according to Cook, is a two-acre park planned for land abutting the pier. The park would be situated between a curved office building and the hotel, which Olympia has placed at the beginning of the pier, even though the city rezoning does not allow a hotel on the pier. Cook said Olympia plans to fill in under that part of the pier.

“The skirt wall is failing on the ferry side of the pier,” Cook said . “This would be a permanent fix for that.”

He said Olympia has discussed with local and state environmental agencies using fill as a fix for the failing wall, and the proposal “has legs.”

Olympia proposes a “village” at the end of the pier, with space for a restaurant, shops and a museum. There would also be open space there for fishing and public access to the water.

Cook said much of the proposal was designed with Portland residents in mind.

“Locals are going to benefit from this every day,” he said.

City staff will spend the next week or so reviewing both proposals, setting up site visits and interviewing the developers. The first city-sponsored public forum is scheduled for March 20 during a Community Development Committee meeting. The CDC eventually makes a recommendation to the City Council.

A public forum scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Public Library and sponsored by Portland Trails and Greater Portland Landmarks has been postponed because Ocean Properties is unable to send a representative. Baldacci said the company did not find out about the forum until Feb. 22 and neither he, Walsh nor Mitchell are available that night.

“We are trying to work out an alternative date,” Baldacci said.

Both proposals are available on the Internet. The Ocean Properties proposal is at www.tms-architects.com. Olympia’s proposal can be found at www.theolympiacompanies.com.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net.
Press Herald

Elected-mayor idea resurrected
By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Staff Writer
Portland Press Herald
Saturday, March 3, 2007

Two city councilors are pushing a proposal that would give Portland voters the ability to elect their mayor.

Councilors Kevin Donoghue and David Marshall say they're responding to constituents' concerns and their own desire to bring stability, accountability and legitimacy to City Hall leadership.

"I also think it's important for the people to have a witness in City Hall on a day-to-day basis," Marshall said on Friday.

Donoghue and Marshall have cosponsored a proposal to be considered at Monday's council meeting, at 7 p.m. at City Hall. However, they hope to amend the proposal and postpone action until the next council meeting, on March 19.

Ultimately, they want a citywide vote on a question that has been posed to Portland residents in the past, always with the same result.

According to the city charter, the nine councilors -- five from districts and four at-large -- elect one of their own to serve as mayor.

Councilors typically take turns filling the job for a year. The mayor has few additional powers or responsibilities, other than naming council committees and running council meetings.

Donoghue's and Marshall's proposal calls for expanding the number of district councilors to eight and reducing the at-large seats to one. The single at-large position would be the mayor, who would still have no more power than any other councilor.

City attorney Gary Wood determined in 2004, when the Portland Taxpayers' Association offered a similar proposal, that such changes could be considered without a charter commission being formed to overhaul the entire city government.

However, because they found little council support for increasing the number of voting districts, Donoghue and Marshall said they plan to amend their proposal at Monday's meeting.

They want to maintain five district seats and three at-large seats. The fourth at-large seat would be the mayor's position and come with a three-year term, like the rest of the council. In the future, Marshall said, he would like the mayor's job to be a full-time, salaried position. The mayor and councilors now get small stipends.

If the council supports the changes, voters will be asked to consider them in a citywide election. If not, Donoghue and Marshall plan to gather more than 5,000 signatures of registered voters in 120 days to put the issue on the November ballot.

Some councilors question whether Donoghue's and Marshall's proposal would win widespread support or accomplish their goals.

"The last time this came up, it didn't get a lot of votes," said Councilor James Cloutier. "There's not a deep well of hope out there for this."

Portland voters haven't elected a mayor since 1923, when they got rid of a strong-mayor form of government with a Board of Aldermen and a Common Council. Today, the mayor is effectively chairman of the council. The city's executive is the city manager.

Portland has reconsidered the issue several times. The last was in November 1997, when 62 percent of voters rejected a proposal to create a charter commission. The ballot question didn't specifically mention having an elected mayor, but it was the focus of intense campaigning on both sides of the issue.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

View District Two: A Work in Progress in a larger map