Wednesday, November 28, 2007

1st Annual Report to District 2
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.


Public Safety

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.


Finance

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.


Creative Economy

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.


Conclusion

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 damarshall@portlandmaine.gov or by calling 207.409.6617.

Best Wishes,
Dave Marshall

1 comment:

T$ said...

Hey Dave.
What's the deal with the new loan program for artists? Tell me more.
Peace.
T$


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