Monday, April 21, 2008

The Maine Switch

St. John Valley Neighborhood Forum #3

When:
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
6:30-8:30pm

Where:
First Atlantic Building
222 St. John Street, Suite G5 Portland, ME

Who:
720-298-2490
stjohnvalley.blogspot.com/

Cost: free

Category: Civic

Description: Community members are invited to join their neighbors and City Councilor David Marshall in a forum focused on the St. John Valley Neighborhood. The meeting on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 is the third in a series of three public meetings to identify community priorities for future improvements in the St. John Valley Neighborhood.

A summary of neighborhood priorities based on input from previous meetings will be presented. The meeting will also include a discussion on moving forward.

The area of focus includes the St. John/Valley St. corridor, from Veteran’s Bridge to Park Avenue, as well as the neighborhood between the Maine Medical Center campus and the Ballpark, as far east as Weymouth Street.

Visit http://stjohnvalley.blogspot.com/ for more details.

Hosted by the City of Portland Planning Department and the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Press Herald

Controversy over city school highlights need for planning
'People are ready' to discuss managing facilities at a time when enrollment is falling, a school board member says.

By TOM BELL, Staff Writer April 12, 2008


On the surface, this week's political drama over a proposal to build a new elementary school in Portland accomplished nothing except a lot of heated accusations and angry e-mail.

But School Committee member Kate Snyder said the controversy brought attention to a complicated and politically explosive issue -- the need to create a long-term plan for managing the school district's aging buildings at a time when enrollments are declining and budgets are tight.

"The conversation has been started in a big way," she said. "And I think people are ready to talk about that stuff. People are more galvanized. They are saying, 'OK, let's do some true facilities planning.'"

The controversy erupted Monday when three city councilors -- Kevin Donoghue, David Marshall and Mayor Ed Suslovic -- unexpectedly killed a measure to allow a plan for a new school on Ocean Avenue to go to referendum June 10.

The state has agreed to provide nearly $20 million for the project. When the school is completed, school officials plan to close the century-old Clifford Elementary School on Falmouth Street.

Donoghue, Marshall and Suslovic argued that the city should not replace the Clifford school with a significantly larger facility without having a plan in place to close an additional elementary school. During the days following the vote, the three councilors were inundated with e-mail and phone calls. They were also sharply criticized by other councilors, school officials and state officials.

On Thursday, the three councilors issued a press release saying that they will change their votes because members of the School Committee had assured them "that they are equally committed to completing an elementary facilities plan in the very near future."

Donoghue, Marshall and Suslovic will ask the council to reconsider the matter and vote again April 28.

Suslovic on Friday declined an interview, saying it would be better for the city if officials put the controversy behind them.

Donoghue did not return phone messages. He had previously said he would reconsider his vote if he got a commitment from school officials to close and consolidate an additional elementary school. The new Ocean Avenue school would serve 440 students; Clifford has 270 students.

Marshall said he still believes that building a new school would be a bad deal for the city unless officials at that same time spell out a consolidation plan.

He agreed to change his vote, he said, only because it became apparent that even opponents of the new school want to decide the issue at the ballot box.

"When it comes down to it, the voters want to have their say on this," he said. "I voted my conscience the other night. I still have deep regrets about where we are at."

He added, "For me, this battle isn't over. It just goes to the polls next."

School Committee Chairman John Coyne said the committee hasn't changed its views. The board still plans to wait until the new school is built, in 2011, to make any decision about whether to close another school.

He said elementary school enrollments west of Interstate 295 are holding steady and that all are near capacity.

Before making a decision to close a school, he said, it makes sense to wait until after the new school is ready and examine the latest enrollment and demographic trends.

The School Committee began working on a facilities plan in January and expects to finish the work sometime this fall, said School Committee member Jaimey Caron. The plan looks at all school district buildings, not just elementary schools.

The timetable has not changed over the past week, and neither has the School Committee's commitment to good planning, Coyne said.

The only thing that has changed, he said, is that some council members now better understand the School Committee's commitment to the process.

This week's controversy Controversy over city school highlights need for planning
'People are ready' to discuss managing facilities at a time when enrollment is falling, a school board member says.

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By TOM BELL, Staff Writer April 12, 2008


On the surface, this week's political drama over a proposal to build a new elementary school in Portland accomplished nothing except a lot of heated accusations and angry e-mail.

But School Committee member Kate Snyder said the controversy brought attention to a complicated and politically explosive issue -- the need to create a long-term plan for managing the school district's aging buildings at a time when enrollments are declining and budgets are tight.

"The conversation has been started in a big way," she said. "And I think people are ready to talk about that stuff. People are more galvanized. They are saying, 'OK, let's do some true facilities planning.'"

The controversy erupted Monday when three city councilors -- Kevin Donoghue, David Marshall and Mayor Ed Suslovic -- unexpectedly killed a measure to allow a plan for a new school on Ocean Avenue to go to referendum June 10.

The state has agreed to provide nearly $20 million for the project. When the school is completed, school officials plan to close the century-old Clifford Elementary School on Falmouth Street.

Donoghue, Marshall and Suslovic argued that the city should not replace the Clifford school with a significantly larger facility without having a plan in place to close an additional elementary school. During the days following the vote, the three councilors were inundated with e-mail and phone calls. They were also sharply criticized by other councilors, school officials and state officials.

On Thursday, the three councilors issued a press release saying that they will change their votes because members of the School Committee had assured them "that they are equally committed to completing an elementary facilities plan in the very near future."

Donoghue, Marshall and Suslovic will ask the council to reconsider the matter and vote again April 28.

Suslovic on Friday declined an interview, saying it would be better for the city if officials put the controversy behind them.

Donoghue did not return phone messages. He had previously said he would reconsider his vote if he got a commitment from school officials to close and consolidate an additional elementary school. The new Ocean Avenue school would serve 440 students; Clifford has 270 students.

Marshall said he still believes that building a new school would be a bad deal for the city unless officials at that same time spell out a consolidation plan.

He agreed to change his vote, he said, only because it became apparent that even opponents of the new school want to decide the issue at the ballot box.

"When it comes down to it, the voters want to have their say on this," he said. "I voted my conscience the other night. I still have deep regrets about where we are at."

He added, "For me, this battle isn't over. It just goes to the polls next."

School Committee Chairman John Coyne said the committee hasn't changed its views. The board still plans to wait until the new school is built, in 2011, to make any decision about whether to close another school.

He said elementary school enrollments west of Interstate 295 are holding steady and that all are near capacity.

Before making a decision to close a school, he said, it makes sense to wait until after the new school is ready and examine the latest enrollment and demographic trends.

The School Committee began working on a facilities plan in January and expects to finish the work sometime this fall, said School Committee member Jaimey Caron. The plan looks at all school district buildings, not just elementary schools.

The timetable has not changed over the past week, and neither has the School Committee's commitment to good planning, Coyne said.

The only thing that has changed, he said, is that some council members now better understand the School Committee's commitment to the process.

This week's controversy...Controversy over city school highlights need for planning
'People are ready' to discuss managing facilities at a time when enrollment is falling, a school board member says.

Bookmark & share: digg del.icio.us Reddit
Printer-friendly version E-mail this page Reader Comments
By TOM BELL, Staff Writer April 12, 2008


On the surface, this week's political drama over a proposal to build a new elementary school in Portland accomplished nothing except a lot of heated accusations and angry e-mail.

But School Committee member Kate Snyder said the controversy brought attention to a complicated and politically explosive issue -- the need to create a long-term plan for managing the school district's aging buildings at a time when enrollments are declining and budgets are tight.

"The conversation has been started in a big way," she said. "And I think people are ready to talk about that stuff. People are more galvanized. They are saying, 'OK, let's do some true facilities planning.'"

The controversy erupted Monday when three city councilors -- Kevin Donoghue, David Marshall and Mayor Ed Suslovic -- unexpectedly killed a measure to allow a plan for a new school on Ocean Avenue to go to referendum June 10.

The state has agreed to provide nearly $20 million for the project. When the school is completed, school officials plan to close the century-old Clifford Elementary School on Falmouth Street.

Donoghue, Marshall and Suslovic argued that the city should not replace the Clifford school with a significantly larger facility without having a plan in place to close an additional elementary school. During the days following the vote, the three councilors were inundated with e-mail and phone calls. They were also sharply criticized by other councilors, school officials and state officials.

On Thursday, the three councilors issued a press release saying that they will change their votes because members of the School Committee had assured them "that they are equally committed to completing an elementary facilities plan in the very near future."

Donoghue, Marshall and Suslovic will ask the council to reconsider the matter and vote again April 28.

Suslovic on Friday declined an interview, saying it would be better for the city if officials put the controversy behind them.

Donoghue did not return phone messages. He had previously said he would reconsider his vote if he got a commitment from school officials to close and consolidate an additional elementary school. The new Ocean Avenue school would serve 440 students; Clifford has 270 students.

Marshall said he still believes that building a new school would be a bad deal for the city unless officials at that same time spell out a consolidation plan.

He agreed to change his vote, he said, only because it became apparent that even opponents of the new school want to decide the issue at the ballot box.

"When it comes down to it, the voters want to have their say on this," he said. "I voted my conscience the other night. I still have deep regrets about where we are at."

He added, "For me, this battle isn't over. It just goes to the polls next."

School Committee Chairman John Coyne said the committee hasn't changed its views. The board still plans to wait until the new school is built, in 2011, to make any decision about whether to close another school.

He said elementary school enrollments west of Interstate 295 are holding steady and that all are near capacity.

Before making a decision to close a school, he said, it makes sense to wait until after the new school is ready and examine the latest enrollment and demographic trends.

The School Committee began working on a facilities plan in January and expects to finish the work sometime this fall, said School Committee member Jaimey Caron. The plan looks at all school district buildings, not just elementary schools.

The timetable has not changed over the past week, and neither has the School Committee's commitment to good planning, Coyne said.

The only thing that has changed, he said, is that some council members now better understand the School Committee's commitment to the process.

This week's controversy shone a light on the issue in an "awkward way," said City Councilor John Anton, but the debate resulted in a better understanding of the School Committee's position.

"I think we have a very strong School Committee that is ready to dig in and do the hard work on these issues," he said.

In a message she posted on Friday on a Web site that is used by parents, Snyder urged people to move beyond the controversy.

"This week has been wrought with anxiety for so many of us, on so many levels," she wrote. "There is a lot of healing to do as a result."

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com shone a light on the issue in an "awkward way," said City Councilor John Anton, but the debate resulted in a better understanding of the School Committee's position.

"I think we have a very strong School Committee that is ready to dig in and do the hard work on these issues," he said.

In a message she posted on Friday on a Web site that is used by parents, Snyder urged people to move beyond the controversy.

"This week has been wrought with anxiety for so many of us, on so many levels," she wrote. "There is a lot of healing to do as a result."

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com shone a light on the issue in an "awkward way," said City Councilor John Anton, but the debate resulted in a better understanding of the School Committee's position.

"I think we have a very strong School Committee that is ready to dig in and do the hard work on these issues," he said.

In a message she posted on Friday on a Web site that is used by parents, Snyder urged people to move beyond the controversy.

"This week has been wrought with anxiety for so many of us, on so many levels," she wrote. "There is a lot of healing to do as a result."

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com shone a light on the issue in an "awkward way," said City Councilor John Anton, but the debate resulted in a better understanding of the School Committee's position.

"I think we have a very strong School Committee that is ready to dig in and do the hard work on these issues," he said.

In a message she posted on Friday on a Web site that is used by parents, Snyder urged people to move beyond the controversy.

"This week has been wrought with anxiety for so many of us, on so many levels," she wrote. "There is a lot of healing to do as a result."

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com shone a light on the issue in an "awkward way," said City Councilor John Anton, but the debate resulted in a better understanding of the School Committee's position.

"I think we have a very strong School Committee that is ready to dig in and do the hard work on these issues," he said.

In a message she posted on Friday on a Web site that is used by parents, Snyder urged people to move beyond the controversy.

"This week has been wrought with anxiety for so many of us, on so many levels," she wrote. "There is a lot of healing to do as a result."

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com shone a light on the issue in an "awkward way," said City Councilor John Anton, but the debate resulted in a better understanding of the School Committee's position.

"I think we have a very strong School Committee that is ready to dig in and do the hard work on these issues," he said.

In a message she posted on Friday on a Web site that is used by parents, Snyder urged people to move beyond the controversy.

"This week has been wrought with anxiety for so many of us, on so many levels," she wrote. "There is a lot of healing to do as a result."

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com
The Bollard

April 8, 2008


Don't order the wrecking ball just yet: Nathan Clifford Elementary School, on Falmouth Street. (photo/Chris Busby)

School shocker
Council nixes public vote on state-backed bonds for new school

By Chris Busby

In a move that shocked and appalled backers of building a new elementary school on Ocean Avenue, the Portland City Council voted late last night not to ask voters to weigh in on whether to issue nearly $20 million in state-backed bonds for the project. The vote is all but certain to kill plans to construct a new school on the site of the former Baxter Elementary School in the city's Back Cove neighborhood.

The measure needed super-majority support of at least seven of the nine councilors. Mayor Ed Suslovic was joined by peninsula district Councilors Kevin Donoghue and Dave Marshall in opposing the order to put the bond question before voters this June. Voter approval is necessary to borrow the money.

Councilors Nick Mavodones, Jill Duson, Jim Cohen, John Anton, Cheryl Leeman and Dan Skolnik all supported sending the bond question out for a vote, as did the majority of the Portland School Committee. In March, the Maine Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the concept design for the new school, which would have served nearly 450 children.

The state had offered to reimburse the city for nearly all of the bonded construction funds. Councilor Mavodones said it would be "criminal" to turn that offer down. "We would be the laughing stock of Maine" if the city passed up the state money, he said.

Opponents said that in the absence of a comprehensive plan for elementary school consolidation, voters would not be able to make an informed decision this summer. The school board has tried, and failed, for several years to come up with such a plan.

Suslovic and Donoghue also said there are other costs associated with the project that have not been identified – including improvements to roads and sidewalks near the proposed school site and increased transportation costs. Without knowing what these and other long-term costs may be, voters cannot make an informed judgment, they said.

Marshall noted that the Libbytown neighborhood surrounding Nathan Clifford Elementary School, which was slated to close under this plan, recently qualified for federal anti-poverty funds. The loss of the neighborhood's school would further stress this area of town, he argued.

Clifford's closure amounts to "disinvesting in a declining neighborhood," agreed Donoghue. "It's red-lining in 2008, and I'm not going to be part of it."

School board chairman John Coyne was incensed by the vote. "I'm disappointed in Mayor Suslovic, Councilor Donoghue and Councilor Marshall for not allowing the city voters to have a voice in what happens with their schools," he said. "They have silenced the voters who elected them."

Some councilors who supported sending the bond question out for a vote said they still didn't like the Ocean Avenue plan. Councilor Skolnik, whose district includes Libbytown, paraphrased a Bob Dylan lyric in his opening remarks to express his disgust: "Tell me great hero, but please make it brief, is there a hole for me to get sick in?"

Skolnik said he favored more exploration of the possibility a new school could be built at Dougherty Field. The Ocean Avenue plan would create a school that's "too big in the short term and too small in the long term," he said.

The normally mild-mannered Mavodones became visibly angry when it became clear the measure was going to fail. "I'm pretty shocked, particularly at our at-large member, who's the mayor," he said. He implied that Suslovic, who lives near Clifford school, was putting the interests of his neighborhood over those of the city as a whole.

"I hope all the people who live in this city take note of this," Mavodones said, adding that he'd heard talk of a campaign to recall city officials if the matter was not put before voters. After the meeting, Mavodones said he had already gotten e-mails from incensed citizens watching the proceedings on TV. "In these bad budget times, to give away $20 million is disgraceful," he added outside Council Chambers.

Donoghue cited the city's budget woes as a reason for his vote. "I voted down a plan to expand the capacity of a school system we can't afford," he said after the meeting.

Councilor Leeman admonished Mavodones and others for their tone during the meeting, and tried to pass an amendment asking state officials to hold the $20 million they'd pledged for a new elementary school in Portland until city officials came up with a comprehensive plan. That amendment failed 7-2, with Leeman and Suslovic in the minority.

Interim Superintendent Jeanne Whynot-Vickers said state education officials had told her it was "very unlikely" the state would agree to give city officials more time to settle this matter. State officials have already granted Portland one extension, she said.

Portland school officials will now have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to proceed.

It's possible last night's vote saved Clifford school from the wrecking ball. The century-old structure had been considered too impractical to renovate, but Councilor Marshall said state lawmakers recently passed a bill granting historic schools a special waiver from guidelines that would ordinarily preclude additional state investment.


Chris Busby is editor and publisher of The Bollard. He can be reached at editor@thebollard.com.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

WCSH6.com News Center

Neighbors Weigh In On Potential New Pro Team

http://www.wcsh6.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=83923

City Councilor David Marshall represents the district in which the Portland Expo is located and hosted the meeting. He says it appears the city will move forward in support of the proposal.

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