Thursday, November 01, 2007

PRESS HERALD

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.

ACCUSATIONS REJECTED

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:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

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