Saturday, July 19, 2008

PRESS HERALD

Cohen won't seek third term on council

Known for his leadership on the finance panel, he plans to focus on his law practice and family.

By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Staff Writer July 18, 2008

Portland City Councilor James Cohen, who led the council's effort to grapple with troubled school finances over the past two years, said Thursday that he won't seek a third term in November.

Cohen said he plans to refocus his priorities on his law practice and his family. His wife, Joan, is seeking the District 113 seat in the Maine House of Representatives.

"It's the right decision for my family at this time," said Cohen, who has two boys, ages 8 and 12. "I'm certainly going to miss working with the city and on behalf of my constituents. I want to stay active in the community, but I want to pick my spots."

Now in his sixth year on the council, Cohen has been chairman of the finance committee for two years. In that role, he pressed school officials to provide more detailed information during annual budget reviews, especially after a $2 million deficit came to light last year.

The school superintendent and finance director resigned last summer.

This year, he oversaw preparation of a city budget for fiscal 2009 that eliminated 93 municipal jobs in anticipation of cost increases and revenue shortfalls in the coming months.

"His leadership on the finance committee has been invaluable," said Councilor David Marshall, a finance committee member. "We agree on some things and disagree on others, but he always gives me my chance to participate, and when the issue's over, he moves on."

Marshall described Cohen as professional and thoughtful and lauded his efforts to promote economic development through creative industries and forward-thinking environmental and transportation policies.

Cohen, who is a partner with Verrill Dana in Portland, said he plans to expand his practice as a utilities lobbyist and government-relations specialist to include community mediation. He received a certificate in mediation in March from the University of Southern Maine.

John Coyne, who has been chairman of the Portland School Committee for two years and is up for re-election in November, said Thursday that he plans to run for Cohen's District 5 seat on the council. Coyne, of Saugus Street, and Naomi Mermin, of Madeline Street, have taken out nomination papers to run for the seat.

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

kbouchard@pressherald.com

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