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

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