Monday, May 26, 2008


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

WENA Action Saves Library (For Now)

The Reiche library will stay open after District 2 Councilor
Dave Marshall asked the Portland City Council on May 19th
to restore $30,000 from the City’s contingency fund,
allowing the library to remain open for at least one more
year. The West End Neighborhood Association organized
opposition to the proposed closing of the local branch
library when it became public in early May.

Library Director Stephen Podgajny and the library trustees
have promised extensive long-range planning, with public
input, during the coming year.

West End residents who contacted City Councilors to ask
for their support were pleased that the vote was 8 - 1 in
favor of Marshall's resolution. Jill Duson was the lone
councilor to vote against the measure, saying that she
couldn't support last-minute changes to the budget because
the finance committee had worked hard to balance
competing community interests.

The West End Neighborhood Association will keep residents
posted on PPL's long-range planning process, which will
eventually determine the fate of Reiche and other branch
libraries. WENA urged residents to stay close to the process
by joining the newly-formed Friends of Reiche. They can be
reached at

Thursday, May 22, 2008

GOVERNOR SIGNS LD 2019: An Act To Make Capital Rail Improvements for Economic Development Purposes

Councilor David A. Marshall (second from the left) watches the Governor Baldachi sign LD 2019 on Wednesday May 21st. He worked with Tony Donovan (far left) and Rep Boyd Marley (behind the Governor) to amend the bill in the Transportation Committee. The amended version of the bill easily passed the House and Senate and narrowly made it through the Appropriations Committee on a 7-6 vote thanks to strong support from the Governor.

Councilor Marshall lead the charge to block an Federal earmark funding request to widen I-295 through Portland. With the League of Young Voters, Marshall organized a Transportation Forum last winter.

During the Green Independent Presidential Caucus, Marshall moved a resolution opposing the the widening of I-295 and encouraging the expansion of passenger rail to Brunswick. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

When the Maine Department of Transportation held its public hearing in Portland for its I-295 Corridor Study, over 100 people joined in opposition.

Then over 150 told the PACTS to drop its Federal funding earmark request to widen I-295 at its public hearing in Portland in February.

What LD 2019 accomplishes:

1. Fixes the missing link in our railroad network by directing one half of the rental car tax for investment in railroad improvements to Yarmouth Junction and Brunswick. Towns and cities along railroads throughout Maine will have the possibility for passenger service and improve freight business by investing in this railroad link.

2. The success of passenger rail service in Maine due to ridership exceeding expectations and economic development will be extended to Yarmouth, Freeport, and Brunswick by 2010.

3. Freight rail speeds will double allowing Maine wood products and other goods to be exported more competitively.

4. State tax revenue will increase by $72 million by 2030 due to transit oriented developments along the passenger rail corridor.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Approved Portland city budget spares Reiche library

City councilors pass a $185 million budget that will reduce the number of polling places.

By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Staff Writer May 20, 2008

The Reiche Branch of the Portland Public Library will stay open for another year, but the number of polling places will be reduced from 16 to six, under a $185 million municipal budget that was approved unanimously by the Portland City Council on Monday.

Both issues generated strong public reaction in the final week of deliberation over a budget that reduced many city services and eliminated 93 jobs through attrition and layoffs.

Councilors voted 8-1 to restore $30,000 for the Reiche Branch, as proposed by Councilor David Marshall. They transferred the money from a contingency fund, so the change didn't increase the municipal budget. The main library and its five branches will get the same appropriation – $3.1 million – that they got this fiscal year, covering 82 percent of the library budget.

Councilors who supported the measure said they were swayed by library officials' promise that it would give them a year to analyze their facilities and services and work with the community to develop a long-range plan to address rising costs, limited financial resources and changing library needs.

"We need to avoid the summary execution of the Reiche Branch that the library trustees have proposed," said Councilor Daniel Skolnik.

Councilor Jill Duson, who opposed restoring the Reiche Branch's funding, said she couldn't support last-minute changes to the budget because the finance committee worked hard to balance competing community interests.

"They all resonate with me," Duson said.

The council strongly backed City Clerk Linda Cohen's plan to save about $15,000 on major elections, which cost about $40,000 each. The plan reduces the number of mainland polling places from two to one in Districts 1 and 2, and from three to one in Districts 3, 4 and 5. It also eliminates polling places on Cliff and Great Diamond islands, but keeps one on Peaks Island.

Nine residents spoke against Cohen's plan, saying that it will decrease voters' access and increase lines at the polls, which could discourage people from voting, especially younger voters. One resident supported the reduction, saying he had lived in larger cities that had fewer polling places.

In the end, the council voted 7-2 against a proposal by Councilor Kevin Donoghue, which Marshall supported, to keep polling places on Cliff and Great Diamond islands, which cost a total of $2,500 per election. Donoghue said it would be costly and inconvenient for islanders to take a ferry to vote at the District 1 polling place on the mainland.

Most councilors said they believe Cohen will promote public awareness of the changes and encourage voter participation, especially through absentee voting, which represents 30 percent to 50 percent of voting statewide.

In a memo to the council, Cohen said participation increased from 31,000 voters in the 2000 presidential election, when Portland had 24 polling places, to 35,000 voters in the 2004 presidential election, when there were 17 polling places.

In passing the budget, the council also set a property tax rate for the year that starts July 1. The combined $274.5 million for municipal and school budgets will increase Portland's tax rate by 64 cents (3.7 percent), from $17.10 to $17.74 per $1,000 of assessed property value. At that rate, the tax bill on a $230,000 home will increase $147, from $3,933 to $4,080.

The city budget is $1 million (0.5 percent) higher than the current budget, which ends June 30.

The council and Portland voters previously approved an $89.5 million school budget that eliminated 48 jobs – 28 positions left vacant this year and 20 positions to be cut in 2008-09.

The school budget for the coming year is $3.85 million (4.5 percent) higher than the current $85.7 million budget.

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

On the road again, skateboarders face moving violations

Portland police are ticketing skateboarders, like bicyclists, for violating traffic laws.

By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Staff Writer May 19, 2008

Portland police have started ticketing skateboarders who violate traffic laws in the Old Port and Arts District after business owners complained that a recent ordinance change turned the downtown area into a dangerous playground.

The controversy calls into question an attempt by skateboarding advocates and some city officials to recognize skateboards as a legitimate, pollution-free form of transportation.

Business owners say the conflict cropped up last summer, especially on Exchange Street, after the City Council revoked an old ordinance that prohibited skateboarding on city streets. The council acted to clarify a newer ordinance that says skateboarders, like bicyclists, can ride on city streets as long as they follow traffic laws.

And while some say the problem started when the city removed its skate park on Marginal Way last spring, it's unclear whether a new skate park planned at Dougherty Field will lure skateboarders from their favorite downtown streets.

The council's public safety committee directed police to step up traffic enforcement on skateboarders last week. The three-member panel took action after it reviewed a business group's proposal to ban skateboarders from the area bounded by Congress, Franklin, High and Commercial streets.

"We weren't comfortable with an outright ban," said Councilor David Marshall, committee chairman. "We found that the police had never attempted to enforce traffic laws on skateboarders."

The committee is considering a ban on bicycle and skate tricks on city streets and sidewalks. It's also investigating whether the city's anti-cruising ordinance, which prohibits driving by a posted location more than twice every two hours – largely for the purpose of picking up sexual partners – may be applied to skateboarders who ride repeatedly on the same street.

Last summer, in addition to revoking a contradictory ordinance, the council banned skateboarding on downtown sidewalks.

Still, confusion continued. Skateboarding laws and lack of police enforcement led to an overall spike in skateboarding downtown, said Janis Beitzer, executive director of Portland's Downtown District, the group that sought the ban.

"That's when we saw the influx," Beitzer said. "They've converted Exchange Street into a playground. It's a public policy that has not worked and has unintended consequences."

Skateboarders say they have as much right to ride the streets of Maine's largest city as any car, motorcycle or bicycle. They say a total skateboarding ban is unnecessary and believe that most skateboarders will obey traffic laws if police enforce them.

"We don't need to take that fascist route," said Dylan Verner, 26, a skateboarding advocate who works at Sunny Breeze Boardsports on Marginal Way. "It's all our territory, and we need to protect the interests of everyone."

The center of the conflict is a short, steep stretch of Exchange Street, between Middle and Fore streets, that's lined with trendy shops and restaurants. It's in the heart of the Old Port, near Post Office and Tommy's parks, where teenagers and twentysomethings come to hang out and ride.

"Exchange Street is a stage for them," Verner said. "Some of them are incredibly talented athletes."

Most use wider, longer skateboards known as longboards, which are designed for racing and transportation. Shortboards are more commonly used in skate parks. The riders start at the top of the hill, at Exchange and Middle streets, and streak down the single-lane, one-way street, sometimes dodging vehicles and pedestrians along the way.

Some even blow by the stop sign at Fore Street.

Some skateboarders engage in "sliding." They crouch down and press gloved hands on the pavement to control their movements. The fingertips and palms of the gloves are padded with disks they cut from plastic cutting boards.

For some, like David Ericson, 25, skateboarding is the primary way they get around.

"I have a driver's license. I have a car. I prefer my longboard. I've gone as far away as Falmouth on it," he said.

Karl Geib, a bicycle patrol officer, gave out a few tickets to skateboarders in the Old Port on Thursday afternoon. Sol Melendy, 16, got one for pushing his skateboard up Exchange Street, against traffic.

Melendy is scheduled for a district court hearing on June 24 unless he pays a $25 waiver fee within 10 days at City Hall. If he contests the civil citation, he could be fined a minimum $50, plus court fees.

"They're picking on skateboarders," Melendy said. "How often do you see a cop giving a ticket for a bike going down a street the wrong way?"

Eli Cayer, a member of city's skate park planning committee, said skateboarding in the Old Port and Arts District may diminish when a $250,000 park opens on St. James Street, off outer Congress Street, near Interstate 295.

Construction could start as early as next spring, Cayer said. The city recently received a $50,000 matching grant through the Ollie Fund of the Maine Community Foundation, and several fundraisers are planned this summer.

Geib and others familiar with the Old Port skating scene aren't so sure that having a skate park will make a difference downtown.

"It's about having an audience," Geib said. "This is the cool place to be."

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

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Effort under way to keep Portland library branch open

West End residents say restoring $30,000 would save the Reiche Branch and allow for more planning.

By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Staff Writer May 15, 2008

West End residents and others are drumming up support for a budget proposal that would stave off the anticipated closing of the Portland Public Library's Reiche Branch.

City Councilor David Marshall, who represents the West End, plans to ask the council on Monday to restore $30,000 to the library, giving it $3.1 million for 2008-09, the same amount as this year.

Library officials say the $30,000 will give them a year to analyze their facilities and services and work with the community to develop a long-range plan to address rising costs, limited financial resources and changing library needs.

"We need to secure that $30,000 to buy some breathing room for everyone, especially the kids," Stephen Podgajny, executive director, said at Wednesday's board of trustees' meeting at the main library.

Board members urged an audience of about 50 to call or e-mail councilors before they vote on the Reiche Branch issue during final deliberation of a $185 million city budget starting at 7 p.m. Monday.

"The ball, in the short term, is in their court," said Nathan Smith, a board vice president and former city councilor.

Library officials shocked West End residents earlier this month when they said they would close the Reiche Branch in response to a $30,000 reduction in city funding. The council initially considered cutting $50,000 from the current funding level.

Then on Monday, library officials gave the council a 15-page memo stating that the current organization and staffing of the main library on Congress Street and its five neighborhood branches "is not sustainable."

Library officials said they targeted the Reiche Branch because it has the lowest circulation of the city's six library outlets. They also said Portland has more library outlets per capita (10,776 residents per outlet) than any other city in New England.

At Wednesday's trustees' meeting, West End residents described the Reiche Branch as a critical resource in a neighborhood that includes recent immigrants who don't speak English and longtime residents who live in mansions along the Western Promenade.

"It's a real melting pot," said Jo Coyne, a retired school librarian who is a leader of the West End Neighborhood Association. "(The library is) sorely, sorely needed."

Coyne noted that while Portland taxpayers fund about 82 percent of the library's budget, the council appoints only one representative to the 19-member board of trustees, which decides how to spend the money.

The board includes several members from towns outside Portland because the state gives the library about $180,000 each year to serve all residents of Cumberland, York and Oxford counties, Podgajny said.

Looking to Monday, Marshall said it's uncertain whether a majority of the nine-member council will support his $30,000 proposal. Councilors John Anton, Kevin Donoghue and Cheryl Leeman have indicated they'll back his effort, he said. Councilors James Cohen and Nicholas Mavodones Jr. said they probably will support the measure.

Mayor Edward Suslovic said he supports keeping the Reiche Branch open while library officials develop a long-range plan, but he may push to restore less than $30,000. Councilor Daniel Skolnik said he's undecided. Councilor Jill Duson didn't return calls for comment.

"It has the potential to be a close vote," Marshall said at the trustees' meeting. "(Restoring $30,000) might not save the Reiche library forever, but it will give us a chance to have a community dialogue."

Marshall said the $30,000 would come from a contingency fund, so it wouldn't increase the budget.

With $30,000, the library would be able to retain two part-time librarians who operate the branch at Reiche Community School 20 hours per week, Podgajny said.

The library would still have to lay off the equivalent of five full-time employees, all of them at the main library. It would be closed on Mondays as a result.

Some residents questioned whether Monday is the best day to close the main library.

Others questioned plans to temporarily move children's services from the main library to the Munjoy Hill Branch during an $8.5 million renovation of the main library, which starts next spring.

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Downtown skateboarding under review

By Kelley Bouchard Portland Press Herald Staff Writer May 13, 2008 05:15 PM

Portland officials are considering a proposed ban on skateboarding in the Old Port and Arts District.

Councilor David Marshall, committee chairman, said the proposal came from representatives of Portland's Downtown District. The ban would apply to the city's pedestrian activities district.

The Portland City Council's public safety committee will consider the proposal at 5:30 p.m. today in the Merrill Auditorium Rehearsal Hall on Myrtle Street.

Marshall said a group of skateboarders has circulated a petition to protect their right to use skateboards as a mode of transportation.

The police department wants to clarify a city ordinance so officers can enforce a ban on doing skateboard tricks on city streets and sidewalks, Marshall said.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Neighbors Protest Closing Reiche Library

PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER) -- Budget cuts in Portland could force the public library to make cuts, that would include closing the branch at the Reiche Elementary School.

The Reiche branch has been part of the West end neighborhood for 35 years. Dozens came out to protest a plan that could close it.

Reiche is one of five library branches in Portland, not including the main library in Monument Square.

The library's executive director Steve Podgajny says after significant budget cuts they're forced to make changes. Those could include closing the Reiche branch and closing the Main Library on Mondays.

Podgajny says they picked Reiche because of the numbers. The branch is the lowest lender and also closest to the main location.

City councilor David Marshall represents the West end and was at the protest. He's looking into options to find extra revenue in the budget that could help save the branch. He's encouraging residents to attend the library's trustee meeting on Wednesday, May 14th at the main library.


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