Thursday, June 05, 2008


Written and compiled by Chris Busby, except as noted

June 5, 2008

Bar dispersal law may be repealed
The city ordinance passed last year that limits the places in downtown Portland and the Old Port where establishments can serve alcohol and offer live entertainment may be repealed this summer. City Councilor Dave Marshall, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said his committee will discuss an order he's submitted to nix the zoning requirement at its meeting next Tuesday, June 10.

The law prohibits new bars and restaurants from offering music if they are located within 100 feet of another drinking establishment that also offers live entertainment. Commercial spaces where booze and music were previously offered are grandfathered under the law – which is why, for example, a new bar and dance club set to open in the former location of Digger's/Liquid Blue, on Fore Street, was granted liquor and entertainment licenses earlier this year. [See "'Footloose' in Portland," April 5, 2007, in News.]

The law has made a host of locations in the Old Port and Arts District off-limits to new bars and restaurants that could potentially host the performing arts. Marshall said at least one business owner has been denied the opportunity to host music due to the law, though he could not recall which establishment was affected.

The dispersal ordinance, as it's called, "has only caused confusion," said Marshall. "It hasn't done anything to improve public safety…. This ordinance seeks to prohibit entertainment in the Old Port and the Arts District when we should really be focusing on good management practices of bars."

Jan Beitzer, executive director of Portland's Downtown District – the quasi-municipal organization that promotes and helps maintain downtown Portland – was shocked to hear of Marshall's move to kill the law. "I was stunned that he would do that without even having the courtesy to contact me," she said. "He knows that it effects PDD directly and he's on the PDD board. It would have been nice if he'd given us the courtesy of a heads-up."

Marshall said he followed the same procedure councilors always do when they want to introduce an ordinance. A majority of his three-member committee is expected to vote to forward the repeal order to the full council (fellow committee member Kevin Donoghue opposed the dispersal requirement last year and favors repeal). Marshall is fairly confident a majority of the full council will vote to strike the law from the books.

Beitzer said the dispersal ordinance has helped keep Congress Street from experiencing the problems that have plagued Wharf Street – rowdy crowds from different bars and nightclubs gathering late at night and causing fights and other disturbances.

"PDD believes the dispersal rule has been working," she said. "This comes under the heading: don't try to fix something that's not broken."

[Full disclosure: The Bollard has previously editorialized against the dispersal ordinance; see "The Flogging Song," April 19, 2007, in Views.]

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Group raises funds for skate park

By Kelley Bouchard Portland Press Herald Staff Writer June 03, 2008 05:40 PM

Portland's skatepark planning committee is raising money to build a new skatepark at Dougherty Field.

The Momentum fundraising campaign includes a buck-a-brick effort to match a $50,000 grant from the Ollie Fund of the Maine Community Foundation.

Each brick, which will cost $1, will be inscribed and will be used to build the park.

So far, the committee has raised $150,000 toward its $325,000 goal, said City Councilor David Marshall, the committee's chairman.

The logo for the Momentum campaign was designed by Deering High School student Meaghan Maurice, the winner of a citywide contest.

For more information on how to purchase a brick or about the work of the Skatepark Planning Committee, click here.

Monday, June 02, 2008


Debate goes back nearly 100 years
Fear – of corruption and immigrants – has driven the issue historically.

By TOM BELL, Staff Writer June 1, 2008

The debate over the city's form of government goes back to the early 1900s, when Portland and other Maine cities were swept up in a national clean-government movement that sought to replace big-city bosses and corrupt political machines with professional city managers.

At the time, Portland was run by an elected a mayor, a nine-member common council and a nine-member board of aldermen, with each member of both boards representing one of the city's nine wards.

In 1923, reformers joined forces with the city's business establishment, Portland Press Herald publisher Guy Gannett and liberals in the Republican Party to bring change to City Hall.

The Ku Klux Klan, a force in Maine politics at the time, also supported the effort. The Klan was alarmed by a surge in immigration and the growing political influence of the city's Catholic wards. About 6,000 people attended two Klan rallies at City Hall on Sept. 27, three days before the referendum vote that changed the system.

The new government was a council with five members elected at-large, described by supporters as a "board of business directors." The council appointed a city manager. There was no mayor, only a council chairman.

The Protestants in Portland's business and political establishment believed the new arrangement would dilute the ethnic vote and give power to a professional manager who would be "more like one of them," said state Rep. Herb Adams, D-Portland, a historian.

The council was expanded to nine members in 1946. In 1969, the title of the council chairman was changed to mayor.

Today, while the religious and ethnic strife that plagued the city in 1920s is no longer a factor, the same issues of democratic representation and leadership are still at stake, said City Councilor David Marshall.

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

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