Friday, October 14, 2011

David Marshall: A list of successes, ability to 'get things done'

PRESS HERALD Posted: October 14 Updated: Today at 7:15 AM David Marshall: A list of successes, ability to ‘get things done’ The Green Independent wants to invest in school facilities and a streetcar line, and to promote use of alternative fuels. By Jason Singer Staff Writer This story was updated at 7:15 a.m. to correct Marshall's party affiliation and to clarify the circumstances of the arts district tax increment financing district.
David Marshall DAVID MARSHALL PARTY AFFILIATION: Green Independent AGE: 33 ADDRESS: 41 Pine St. PERSONAL: Committed relationship with Whitney Newman EDUCATION: Some college; fine-art apprenticeship, 2001, Plein Air Painting, France OCCUPATION: Gallery owner, fine artist, property manager POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Portland City Council since 2006 WEBSITE: TOP PRIORITIES • Invest in the city’s school buildings to make them state-of-the-art facilities • Grow the population and density downtown • Convert homes and businesses from oil to cleaner, cheaper alternatives • Invest in a modern streetcar line that will encourage development • Institute a 24-hour pothole guarantee JOIN THE CONVERSATION DAVID MARSHALL will answer questions from Press Herald readers during an hour-long live chat with the candidate starting at noon today. Go to to participate. Editor's note: This is the third of 15 daily profiles of Portland's mayoral candidates, paired with online chats. You can find out more about other candidates in our Portland Mayor Race 2011 special section. PORTLAND — City Councilor David Marshall is a technocrat. For his five years in office, he has a list of accomplishments that rival those of his competitors. He came up with the idea for Portland’s first tax increment financing district involving the arts. He helped find money for improvements to the Reiche Community School. And as chairman of the council’s Energy and Environmental Sustainability Committee, he led the push for an energy-service contract to make city-owned buildings more energy-efficient. When he talks about what he will do if he is elected mayor Nov. 8, he notes how he plans to pay for each item, whether it’s through TIFs, federal and state grants, revolving-loan funds, adjustments in the city budget or other financial mechanisms. “The difference between me and the other candidates,” Marshall said at one debate, “is that I know how to get done the things that I talk about.” Marshall’s five-point platform includes investing in the city’s school facilities, converting homes and businesses from oil to alternative fuels, and creating a streetcar line. Those programs would cost a significant amount up front, as some opponents have pointed out. Marshall calls them “investments.” He points to a record of saving the city money. In 2010, he led the approval of the energy-service contract, which cost $11 million up front. It involved energy upgrades for 45 city-owned buildings, including new windows, high-efficiency lighting, roofs and other improvements. The upgrades will save the city about $1.7 million per year, officials said. So over the long run, Marshall said, the investment will pay off. “There’s a difference between investing and spending,” Marshall said during a recent interview at Hot Suppa!. “With investments, you get a return on your money.” The same holds true for his streetcar plan, he said. It would cost millions up front. But Marshall said it could be funded with a mix of federal funds and a TIF district, much like the Arts District. In the end, he said, it would bring in significantly more money than it would cost. He cited two other cities that created successful streetcar systems. In Tampa, Fla., a 2.5-mile streetcar system has spurred more than $1 billion in private investments nearby, according to the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships. One in Portland, Ore., has attracted $2.5 billion in private investments since it opened in 2001. “A modern streetcar system is an economic tool to create growth,” Marshall said. “People invest more around a streetcar line than a bus line because a streetcar system is more permanent. It shows a long-term commitment.” Marshall’s plans have critics, and hurdles to overcome. Mayoral candidate Chris Vail called the streetcar idea “too grand” and said there wouldn’t be money for such a project. Candidate Richard Dodge said all of the city councilors – three are running for mayor – must take blame for the city’s current economic shortcomings. “David should accept the blame like the rest of the council for the lack of progress,” he said. “The council as a whole has been dysfunctional the last several years. ... You have to own what you’ve done.” In addition to being a city councilor, Marshall is a painter, a businessman and a landlord. He owns Constellation Gallery on Congress Street and property in the West End. He is popular with progressives and young voters. He has more than 100 volunteers – mostly young – working on his campaign. The League of Young Voters named him its top candidate early this month, and his campaign team has knocked on more than 12,000 doors. Marshall’s challenge will be to appeal to the broader electorate. He has never run for a citywide seat; he represents District 2 on the council. State Rep. Ben Chipman, whose district overlaps with Marshall’s City Council district, said he likes Marshall’s chances. “He’s run a heck of a campaign, a very active campaign,” Chipman said this week. “I’ve heard a lot of good things. (His team) has knocked on more than 10,000 doors, and they’ve still got almost a month to go before voting day. That’s a lot of doors. “I’d say he’s one of the three or four people who have a really good chance to win this thing,” Chipman said. Staff Writer Jason Singer can be contacted at 791-6437 or at:

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Plastic Bag Ban Considered

WCHS 6 PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Portland City Council's Energy and Environmental Sustainability Committee is looking into whether to ban plastic grocery bags and charge consumers for paper bags. Thursday night, the committee is scheduled to hear from the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit out of California that encourages cities and towns to ban plastic bags and charge customers 10 cents for every paper bag they use from the grocery store. Committee Chair David Marshall says the plan intrigues him because the city is looking for ways to reduce waste and keep the environment clean. Washington D.C. saw bag use drop 80 percent in 2010 after its plastic bag ban and 5 cent charge on paper bags went into effect. "It's a fee not to produce revenue, but to change people's behavior, and that's an interesting policy idea to me," Marshall said. Others argue that now is not the time to put additional fees on consumers. The committee meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in the Portland City Council chambers. Public comment is welcome. NEWS CENTER

City bus system needs fixing, say mayor hopefuls

PRESS HERALD Posted: October 5 City bus system needs fixing, say mayor hopefuls Some of the candidates offer solutions from no fares to making kids ride city buses to school. By Jason Singer Staff Writer PORTLAND - Nearly every candidate at Monday night's mayoral debate at the State Theatre agreed that the city's public transportation system is broken or inadequate. But of those who spoke on the issue, each had a very different proposal for improving the Metro bus system. Ideas ranged from high-tech upgrades to doing away with fares. The audience appeared to appreciate the various approaches to solving the problem. "I'm not sure which one I liked best," said Martha McNally, 62, who attended the event. "But I like that some of them are showing they're outside-the-box thinkers, and I hope whoever wins, they're not afraid to steal some of these ideas." There are 15 candidates for mayor on the Nov. 8 ballot. The winner will be Portland's first popularly elected mayor in nearly 90 years. Not all candidates had to answer each question at Monday's forum, so only some weighed in on the transportation issue. City Councilor David Marshall suggested syncing buses with smartphone applications, which would tell riders exactly how many minutes until the next bus arrives. The city also could place screens with the same technology at bus stops, he said, so riders could see how far away each bus is and the routes each bus offers. Former state Sen. Michael Brennan said public transportation "is really a regional problem and the solution is a regional solution." He said that having multiple bus operators crowds the downtown and reduces efficiency. The neighboring communities need to combine their resources and design one comprehensive bus system. Light rail is also part of the future solution, Brennan said. City officials are already considering big changes to Congress Street because of the bus traffic in the downtown section, which is used by Metro, South Portland's City Bus, the ShuttleBus and Zoom Express. The changes proposed between High Street and Franklin Street include reversing the flow of some one-way streets, removing stop lights and eliminating almost all left turns. Former state Rep. John Eder proposed possibly the most radical idea. He said high school students should use public transportation, rather than school buses, to get to school. By combining the school's resources with the Metro system, the two could invest in more Metro buses and better efficiency. It would also quickly increase ridership, Eder said, and "create good habits for the future." Marshall repeated his commitment to bringing a streetcar system to Portland, which "we could also use as an economic tool." Business tend to build more around streetcar systems than buses, he said, because streetcar systems show a permanent commitment to riders in an area. The city could pay for it, he said, by using federal funds and establishing a transportation tax increment financing district, much as it did with the Arts District. Candidate Markos Miller said the way to improve the city's Metro system is to make ridership free. He pointed to Boulder, Colo., -- a city with many similarities to Portland -- as an example. Free ridership would reduce revenue in the short-term, Miller said, but increasing ridership would attract more federal dollars in the long run, which is how Boulder pays for its system. Despite the varied approaches, all five candidates drew applause from the crowd, but not necessarily from their opponents. Firefighter Chris Vail said he loved Marshall's streetcar idea, but with the struggling economy, the city wouldn't be able to find funds. Charles Bragdon scoffed at Eder's idea of putting high school students on Metro buses. Metro can't run efficiently with the few riders who use it now, Bragdon said, so increasing the numbers and expecting the buses to get kids to school on time is impractical. Staff Writer Jason Singer can be contacted at 791-6437 or at:

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Mayor hopefuls debate role of arts

PRESS HERALD Posted: October 4 Updated: Today at 12:13 AM Mayoral hopefuls debate role of arts By Jason Singer Staff Writer PORTLAND - There's apparently nothing like an arts-themed debate to splash some color on a race for mayor.
David Marshall holds up his answer to a question as the Portland Music Foundation and the Portland Arts & Cultural Center Alliance hosted the fourth mayoral forum at the State Theatre in Portland on Monday. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer Select images available for purchase in the Maine Today Photo Store During a debate Monday night at the State Theatre, candidates who want to be Portland's mayor read poetry, drew smiley faces and talked about their air-guitar and singing skills. Former state Rep. John Eder said the city has largely priced artists -- who built the creative economy -- out of the community. If he's elected Nov. 8, Eder said, he will offer a tax break for affordable housing in Bayside so developers will build at least 1,000 no-frills units where artists could live and work. The Portland Arts & Cultural Center Alliance co-hosted the two-hour event with another nonprofit, the Portland Music Foundation. The event centered on the city's creative economy and included 14 of the 15 mayoral candidates. Richard Dodge couldn't attend because of work-related obligations, and Mayor Nicholas Mavodones and City Councilor Jill Duson left early to attend Monday's council meeting. The debate featured two types of questions: long-form and short-form. The moderator, Sam Pfeifle of the Portland Music Foundation, started the night with 10 long-form questions. Each candidate could answer only three. Pfeifle later asked 10 short-form questions. Candidates wrote (or occasionally drew) answers on large pieces of paper to questions like: "Name an event that has taken place at the State Theatre in the last six months?" or "How much money does the average person spend in Portland on First Friday?" The questions, it appeared, were meant to show how engaged each candidate is in the city's creative economy. In response to a question about housing, former state Sen. Michael Brennan echoed Eder's early comments, saying "gentrification" first pushed artists out of the Old Port, then out of the Arts District and to Munjoy Hill. "The city hasn't made enough of a commitment to the arts community," he said. Jed Rathband and Ethan Strimling said the city needs to switch from a "can't-do" attitude to a "can-do" attitude when housing projects come along. Rathband pointed to a housing development at Danforth and High streets led by Peter Bass. He said it fell through because the city didn't help with funding through its various loan programs. Strimling said philanthropist Roxanne Quimby tried to redevelop an abandoned building on Congress Street into housing, but gave up because the city made her jump through too many hoops. Two lower-profile candidates elicited the biggest cheers of the night. In response to a question that essentially asked, "How can you prove you're a supporter of the arts?" Hamza Haadoow said he writes poetry in both Arabic and English, and read a quick poem for the crowd. "I am an immigrant / but also a U.S. citizen," Haadoow said. "I was born in Somalia / but I'm not a pirate. I am poor / but I am rich in my heart. ... I am not a politician / but I like to check in on politics." At another point, Pfeifle asked, "Should public money be spent to build live/work space for artists in Portland?" All of the candidates wrote "yes" on their answer cards, except for Chris Vail, a firefighter. But Vail, to loud cheers, said taxpayers can't handle any more burdens and the private sector must find a way to fund such projects. "That well isn't running dry," Vail said, "it's already dry." Staff Writer Jason Singer can be contacted at 791-6437 or at:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Young voters formally endorse Marshall for mayor

PRESS HERALD September 26 Young Voters formally endorse Marshall for mayor PORTLAND — The Maine League of Young Voters has endorsed City Councilor David Marshall as its first choice to be chosen mayor of Portland in the Nov. 8 election, the group announced today. In a statement, Marshall said he is "psyched that the league is endorsing my campaign for mayor." The group used ranked-choice voting and asked its most active members to vote for their top five choices. The slate of candidates who came in second through fifth, in order, were: Michael Brennan, John Eder, Markos Miller and Jed Rathband. Dozens of the group's members who volunteered at least eight hours of time in the last year were invited to vote on the endorsements. The league held a mayoral debate Sept. 8 in which 15 candidates answered questions and challenged one another. In a less formal poll of 109 attendees after the debate, former Maine Rep. Brennan was the top choice, followed by Marshall, Miller, Rathband and Mayor Nick Mavodones. In other contests, the League of Young Voters endorsed Zeke Callanan for City Council District 4; Josephine Okot for the at-large School Board seat; and Justin Costa for School Board District 4. The league also says it is supporting the Yes on 1 campaign to save same-day voter registration and opposing questions 2 and 3 about gambling. The league also supports a “Yes” vote on Question 4, the Constitutional amendment, and a “Yes” on the county bond question about revamping the Cumberland County Civic Center. For more information, go to the league's website.

Friday, August 26, 2011


City buildings, schools get energy upgrades
Aug 19, 2011 12:00 am

A majority of Portland students returning to the classroom this fall will be in buildings recently renovated with millions of dollars worth of energy efficiency upgrades.

Work is under way to convert 10 schools to natural gas heating, and a number of other projects are in motion or scheduled across the city, all aimed at making Portland's schools and public buildings cheaper to maintain. These projects are part of an $11 million bond package approved by the City Council about a year ago after plans were set in motion in 2008.

"It's taken three years or so to get to this point, but we're going to start seeing the results," said Councilor David Marshall, chairman of the Energy and Environmental Sustainability Committee.

"We're doing a lot of different things," he said.

About $9.4 million of the bond is being spent with the energy services company Ameresco. It's overseeing the lighting system and boiler plant upgrades, as well as various other heating control upgrades and other efficiency improvements.

"A large part of the savings on this project is natural gas conversions," said Ian Houseal, the city's sustainability coordinator.

He estimated that once the conversion for the the 10 schools and eight city buildings is complete, it will mean nearly $900,000 in annual savings, based on current fuel prices.

"The bright side of higher fuel costs is higher savings," he joked.

The remaining bond funds are almost entirely going to pay for new roofs and windows for city schools, he said.

Peaks Island, Lyseth Elementary and Presumpscot Elementary schools are getting new windows. King Middle, Peaks Island and Lyseth are receiving roof upgrades.

"It's been a very comprehensive overhaul of the school systems," said James Morse, the district's superintendent.

"We're very excited," he said. "Obviously, there's a lot of reasons to want to divorce yourself from fossil fuels. … It just makes incredible sense."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Posted: August 16
Updated: Today at 7:51 AM
Seven turn in signatures to run for mayor
Candidates have until Aug. 29 to have at least 300 of them validated in order to get on November's ballot.

By JASON SINGER Staff Writer


THESE ARE the 20 residents who registered with the city as potential mayoral candidates:

• Erick Bennett
• Zouhair Bouzrara
• Charles Bragdon
• Michael Brennan
• Peter Bryant
• Ralph Carmona
• Richard Dodge
• Jill Duson
• John Eder
• Hamza Haadoow
• Nicholas Hall
• Jodie Lapchick
• David Marshall
• Nicholas Mavodones
• Markos Miller
• Jed Rathband
• Paul Schafer
• Ethan Strimling
• Christopher Vail
• Jay York

PORTLAND - Shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, City Councilor Jill Duson submitted 481 signatures to the city clerk's office. And with that, the race to become Portland's first popularly elected mayor in 88 years had its first official candidate.

Six candidates, from a field that could grow to 20, handed in signatures Monday. Among them was Nicholas Mavodones, a city councilor who was chosen by the rest of the council in December to serve his fourth one-year term as Portland's part-time mayor.

Candidates for the new full-time position have until Aug. 29 to turn in at least 300 valid signatures to get on November's ballot.

Duson didn't return a message seeking comment, but said in a news release that getting her signatures in early "reflects my commitment to action."

Mavodones, who handed in 500 signatures -- the maximum allowed -- called it the first step in a long process.

"I'm going to continue what I've been doing," he said. "That's build a grass-roots organization -- I had volunteers help collect signatures -- and also knock on doors, meet with people and let the voters get to know me."

Mavodones said he will run on his long record of public service.

In addition to Mavodones and Duson, City Councilor David Marshall, former state Rep. John Eder, retired merchant seaman Peter Bryant and Somali immigrant, businessman Hamza Haadoow and Portland Democratic Party vice chairman Ralph Carmona turned in signatures Monday.

The city clerk must determine how many of the candidates' collected signatures belong to registered Portland voters. That process will likely take several days, although the clerk had verified Duson's signatures by Monday afternoon.

Any candidates who don't have 300 valid signatures after the clerk's inspection will have until Aug. 29 to collect more. Eder, who turned in 310 signatures, and Bryant, who turned in about 350, welcomed the early turn-in date.

"It's helpful they've got this, so you can figure out where you stand, how many signatures are valid," Eder said. "Some residents might think they're registered, but they may not be. So I'm going to continue to collect signatures until I hear back."

Since 1923, Portland's mayor, chosen from among the city councilors, has held a largely ceremonial position. Under a city charter change approved by voters last year, voters will now elect a slightly more powerful, full-time mayor to a four-year term and a $66,000-a-year salary.

The mayor will have the power to veto the city's annual budget, but a veto can be overridden by a vote of six councilors.

One of the potential candidates, Jay York, has protested the new position. He says he's running only to point out the fiscal irresponsibility of making a mayor with only a few powers a full-time employee. He has asked voters not to vote for him.

Mavodones and Marshall, who began pushing for an elected mayor four years ago, disagree with York.

Marshall said a full-time mayor can lobby for Portland in Augusta, something the city has sorely lacked.

He pointed to reduced school funding, as well as Gov. Paul LePage's reported remarks about not wanting to work with Portland on a new fishing port, as proof that Portland needs a full-time advocate.

"We haven't had the leadership connections in Augusta," said Marshall, who handed in about 420 signatures. "If we started with diplomacy on Day One with LePage and the Legislature ... I think we'd be in a better situation today. We need them to understand that Portland is the central economic engine that drives Maine."

Haadoow did not return a message seeking comment Monday.

Staff Writer Jason Singer can be contacted at 791-6437 or at:

Showing 14 comments

Anthony M. Zeli 10 hours ago
Nick Mavadones did not support creating the elected mayor position, and I continue to wonder why he is running for a job he didn't think was worth creating. It sounds like he has changed his mind, which is okay, but this story doesn't address this. Councilor Marshall has indeed pushed for this change for many years now, and his position has remained steady.
Jason Shedlock and 2 more liked this

boobyjojohn 2 hours ago in reply to Anthony M. Zeli
mavadones didn't support the elected mayor, until he found out how much money they were going to be paid.
1 person liked this.

JuraA 3 hours ago
Based on this article it's pretty clear that the only one in the bunch with an actual agenda is David Marshall. He proposed the elected position of mayor with a clear understanding of the issues and a genuine concern for what is good for our city.
1 person liked this.

MrAWalker 54 minutes ago in reply to JuraA
He's also capable of working with the City staff (who are actually the power-players in this town). None of the other candidates have that experience - which will be essential for the Mayor.

Tommi 9 hours ago
Councilor Marshall is 100% right that we need a full time prominent person lobbying for us. Whether we are losing school money to rural districts or being insulted by our governor, a full time mayor will be a boon for us across the state. Marshall's mixture of experience and willingness to take on the failing status quo make him my 1st choice for mayor.
Jason Shedlock and 1 more liked this

Jason Shedlock 13 hours ago
Councilor Marshall has got it right. We need to make sure we not only look within the city's borders to affect change, but also work to forge partnerships where possible on the regional and state level.
2 people liked this.

William Ethridge 11 hours ago in reply to Jason Shedlock
I agree. David Marshall has already shown foresight in working to create the position, and I think he is the right candidate to achieve its full potential.
Jason Shedlock and 3 more liked this

Stephanie Vesey 10 hours ago in reply to William Ethridge
I agree with Councilor Marshall as well. We need a full time, people elected mayor to promote Portland. I look forward to hearing more from the candidates.
Jason Shedlock and 2 more liked this

Jake_007 12 hours ago
Where's Herb Adams when you need him.
Electing Jill Duson would be like watching the Bill Murray movie "Groundhog day".
1 person liked this.

Black 6 hours ago in reply to Jake_007
Diss'ng groundhogs? Good thing you didn't pick a hippo movie.

Ralph Carmona 17 hours ago
I wish you folks would have waited for closing day on this. I completed by 500 signatures three weeks ago, but was told to wait until this date. I got focused on a number of issues and turned in my signatures yesterday before 4:30PM. I was more focused on being the first candidate to publicly support the $33 million civic center bond measure. I was also focused on later today or tomorrow, announcing a key endorsement of my candidacy.
1 person liked this.

Peter Bryant 13 hours ago in reply to Ralph Carmona
Giood start - - Trying to whine your way in. ?

Now your sounding like the "Finger Pointer in Chief"
2 people liked this.

Ralph Carmona 17 hours ago
For the record, I had my 500 signatures over three weeks ago and was told about to wait for that date. I was more busy focused on issues, like a press release as the first candidate to support the $33 million civic center bond initiative. When I realized the date I turned in my signatures at 4:20PM yesterday. Ralph

Black 6 hours ago in reply to Ralph Carmona
No body outspends Ralph Carmona! is that $33m a firm pledge or will it go up as the campaign heats up?
boobyjojohn and 1 more liked this


7 turn in papers to become Portland's first elected mayor
By Randy Billings

Aug 16, 2011 11:40 am

PORTLAND — Seven of the 20 residents to express interest in becoming Portland's first popularly elected mayor in more than 80 years have turned in their nomination papers, as of Tuesday morning.

Now, the candidates must wait as the City Clerk's office works to validate each petition.

This November, voters will choose a full-time mayor who will serve a four-year term, draw a $65,000 annual salary and have veto power over the city budget.

Currently, the mayor is selected by the City Council and plays a largely ceremonial role.

Monday was the first day residents could turn in nomination papers.

City Councilor Jill Duson, one of only two women interested in the position, was the first person to take out nomination papers and the first to turn them.

Other candidates to turn in their papers include Hamza Haadoow, Councilor David Marshall, Mayor Nicholas Mavodones, John Eder, Peter Bryant and Ralph Carmona.

Elections administrator Bud Philbrick said petition signatures will be verified in the order they are received. He estimated it would take a couple days for two and three staffers to verify the petition signatures for each candidate.

Unlike citizen-initiatives, the City Charter allows candidates to continue collecting signatures if they fall short, which Philbrick said will motivate staff to verify the signatures as quickly as possible.

"I expect to roll through this pretty quickly," he said.

Residents must collect between 300 and 500 valid signatures from registered Portland voters to be placed on the ballot.

Voters will be asked to rank their choices in order of preference, so if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, an instant run-off can take place until a winner emerges.

Duson, a 57-year-old Democrat, has served on the City Council since 2001. Her campaign theme is "Leading by Listening." She believes Portland has been a "successful city in a challenging time."

She believes her experience as an elected official — both on the council and School Board, and as the former state Director of Rehabilitation Services — makes her the best candidate for the the job.

Haadoow is 37-years-old and unenrolled in a political party. Haadoow emigrated to the U.S. from Somalia 10 years ago. Since then, he has opened two businesses: a transportation company and a small grocery store.

Haadoow, who is currently the assistant manager of Goodwill's recycling and sustainability program, said he is running to unify city. He believes there are too many divisions between immigrants and natives, the homeless and the middle class, and Muslims and Christians.

Marshall, a 33-year-old Green-Independent who owns an art gallery on Congress Street, has served on the City Council since 2006.

But Marshall said he is anything but a status-quo candidate. Over the years, he said he has been working to change the way the city does business, especially in the areas of supporting the arts, environmental sustainability and transportation.

He is running a platform of bolstering green jobs, the creative economy and sustainable development.

Mavodones, a 51-year-old Democrat and longtime city councilor, is the operations manager of the Casco Bay Island Transit District. The former School Board member said he has a track record of bring people together and focusing on economic development.

Mavodones, who opposed the creation of the popularly elected mayor position, said he is seeking the post because he believes the city is on the right track and can continue to prosper with only a few minor tweaks.

This is the second year in a row Mavodones has served as the council-selected mayor for the city.

Carmona, a 60-year-old Democrat, is new to the city, having moved here from California last August. The current vice chairman of the Portland Democratic Committee, his campaign theme is "Portland on the rise."

Carmona, who is retired from the utilities industry, said he is passionate about civil rights. He said he could advocate for the city in Augusta, noting his past experience as a lobbyist for Bank of America.

Eder, a Green-Independent, and Bryant, a Democrat, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Other residents who have not turned in their nomination papers are: Republican Erick Bennett, Zouhair Bouzrara (unenrolled), Charles Bragdon (unenrolled), Democrat Michael Brennan, Republican Richard Dodge, Green Independent Nicholas Hall, Democrat Jodie Lapchick, Markos Miller (unenrolled), Democrat Jed Rathband, Democrat Paul Schafer, Democrat Ethan Strimling, Jay York (unenrolled) and Christopher Vail (unenrolled).

Residents have until Aug. 29 to turn in their petitions.
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings

Portland council denies marijuana petitioners extra time to collect signatures
By Randy Billings

Aug 16, 2011 8:50 am

PORTLAND — A petition effort aimed to make enforcement of marijuana laws the Portland Police Department's lowest priority has been snuffed out — at least for now.

But proponents of an ordinance that would have codified marijuana laws as the city's lowest enforcement priority said they are ready to try again.

The City Council on Monday rejected a proposal that would have allowed the marijuana advocacy group, Sensible Portland, additional time to collect signatures that would have placed the ordinance on the November ballot.

Sensible Portland collected 2,100 signatures and turned them in to the City Clerk's office on July 15, a month ahead of schedule. But the group fell 93 signatures short of the 1,500 needed after the clerk culled the list for registered Portland voters.

Councilor David Marshall called the 35 percent rejection rate "unprecedented," and asked the council to considered giving the group an additional 10 days to collect the signatures.

"This group thought they had 10 (extra) days and plenty of signatures," Marshall said.

Marshall, along with Sensible Portland members, noted that the city's petition gathering process is not only at odds with the state, but also an exception within its own local laws.

The state allows petitioners extra time to gather signatures if they fall short. So does the city where a group is trying to change the City Charter, but not the code of ordinances.

"It's actually easier to change the City Charter than it is the City Ordinance," Marshall said. "That just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me."

Sensible Portland, which believes the city wastes time and money on marijuana enforcement, said they acted in good faith to comply with the existing rules.

Anthony Zeli, of Sensible Portland, said the grassroots effort relied completely on volunteers, most of whom had never before petitioned. That group worked closely with city staff on both the petition and the proposed ordinance, he said.

"This is definitely a complex process," Zeli said. "It's not easy for a group of citizens to go through."

To deny the group additional time, some said, would be to disenfranchise the 1,000 Portland residents who supported putting the question on the ballot.

"Those signatures are not just ink on paper," resident Jason Shedlock said. "They represent voters across the city who have engaged, to one extent or another, in the civic process. Whether or not one agrees with the underlying goal, we as a city should be fostering that engagement any chance we can."

But resident Robert Haines said the issue had nothing to do with civic engagement.

"This is about sour grapes," Haines said. "You don't change a process once it has started to bail out a group that didn't do their homework."

The majority of councilors agreed that it was unfair to change the rules midstream to help a specific petition drive.

Councilor Cheryl Leeman said she served on the council when the ordinance was changed to prohibit additional time for ordinance petitioners. That action occurred because the city lowered the signature threshold, she said.

"The state ... threshold is much higher with regard to how many signatures you have to have, which is why they allow you that extra 10 days," Leeman said.

But councilors were open to a comprehensive review of the petition process as it compares to state law, directing staff to collect information for an early October workshop.

While it takes 1,500 signatures to place a citizen-initiated ordinance on the ballot, the state standard for changing Portland's charter is upwards of 4,500 signatures.

But Leeman cautioned that the group's effort to align state and local laws might backfire.

"I think you will find it will make it more difficult," she said.
After the meeting, Sensible Portland immediately began collecting more signatures for a new petition effort.

Zeli said the group was not giving up on the effort and is eying the June 2012 or November 2012 ballot.

"It's a setback for for this petition drive," he said, "but it's certainly not the end of the issue."
Randy Billings can br reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings

August 9

Panel recommends Portland prohibit sale, use of fireworks
The city considers the action because a new state law legalizes fireworks except where locally prohibited.

By Dennis Hoey
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — A City Council committee is recommending that Portland prohibit sales and use of fireworks in the city once a new state law legalizing fireworks takes effect.

Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne said the city is too densely populated and built up to allow people to use fireworks.

“We really have grave concerns around a fire starting, as well as personal injuries,” he told members of the council’s Public Safety Committee.

City Councilor Ed Suslovic, who chairs the committee, and Councilor David Marshall voted to support the prohibition. The committee’s other member, Councilor John Coyne, was unable to attend Tuesday night’s meeting.

The committee’s recommendation is scheduled to go to the City Council for adoption in September.

L.D. 83, which was enacted by the Legislature on June 29, will allow sales and use of consumer fireworks except in cities and towns that decide to prohibit them.

Consumers fireworks are considered to be less potent and smaller than those used for public displays. Federal regulations define them as any device that’s designed to produce a sound and contains as much as 130 milligrams of explosive material.

Sponsors of the bill said people in Maine already use fireworks but there are no safety programs because they are illegal. By legalizing their sale, supporters said, fireworks will create jobs and generate revenue for the state through the sales tax.

But, in Portland there appears to be little, if any, support for allowing fireworks to be sold or used.

Marshall noted that a major Portland fire was started in 1866 by children setting off fireworks near a molasses factory. He said he will lobby for a comprehensive prohibition of their sale and use.

“I’ve already had a lot of complaints from people in Parkside about fireworks going off at all hours of the night,” Marshall said.

Helen Andrews, who lives on Chester Street, said she heard fireworks going off in her neighborhood two nights ago, around 9:30 p.m.

“I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to call, but I hear (fireworks) going off all the time,” said Andrews, who told the councilors that she supports prohibiting fireworks in the city.

“The only fireworks we’re going to allow will be in this chamber on Monday nights,” Suslovic said.
Also Tuesday, committee members discussed a potential revision to the city’s ordinance governing the raising of domestic chickens.

Marshall said he wants to reduce the setback provision in the two-year-old ordinance, which is now 25 feet, to let people who live in densely populated neighborhoods such as the West End have the opportunity to raise chickens.

The ordinance permits a resident – for a $25 annual fee – to raise as many as six hens as pets in their backyard.

Under the ordinance, a henhouse must be at least 25 feet from any residential structure, including any building on an adjacent lot. Marshall feels that provision is too restrictive.

“Being able to domesticate chickens adds to the food options of people,” he said.

The issue will be discussed at the Public Safety Committee’s meeting on Sept. 13.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

Monday, July 18, 2011


Housing developer seeks different shade of green for Portland-funded project
By Randy Billings

Jul 12, 2011 12:00 am

PORTLAND — Avesta Housing wants the city to waive a requirement for energy efficiency certification at the Mirada Adams School property on Munjoy Hill.

If granted, the waiver would be third under the ordinance, which was adopted two years ago.

The frequency of waivers has prompted a review of the policy.

Avesta plans to build 16 townhouse condominiums at the site of the former school at 48 Moody St. The school building has been demolished and development plans are scheduled for Planning Board review next month.

Development Officer Seth Parker said the nonprofit, affordable housing agency is seeking the waiver to reign in the costs of each condo. The units will be sold, not rented, which makes it more difficult to absorb the costs, he said.

"Adams is sort of a different model for us, being a for-sale condominium," Parker said. "It's a really tight budget, and we're really trying to preserve the affordability of those units up there the best we can given the market conditions."

Parker estimated it would cost about $47,000 for consultants, reporting and registration fees to certify the Adams School project under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, as required by the city.

That would add about $3,000 to the cost of each condo, Parker said.

The ordinance requires LEED certification for construction projects that receive more than $25,000 in city funding. The Adams School project has received $1.71 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding.

Avesta formally submitted its waiver request last week to Planning and Urban Development Director Penny St. Louis, who is responsible for administrative waivers.

When reached on vacation Monday, St. Louis said she hasn't had a chance to review the request. But she expects to make a decision soon after she returns.

Waivers may be granted when projects negatively impact a historic building, or when certification would be cost prohibitive.

City Councilor David Marshall said he is disappointed that the certification requirement may be waived.

"I guess the waiver has become more of the rule rather than the exception," Marshall said.

The Pierce Atwood law firm was granted a waiver last year for renovations to the former Cumberland Cold Storage building on the waterfront. That project triggered the ordinance because it received $2.8 million in tax increment financing from the city.

The Baxter Library renovation, which received a TIF, also received a waiver. But Marshall said that one was appropriate, since the project would have lost historic value, and tax credits, because of LEED certification.

"After seeing a couple of these go through, like the Cumberland Cold Storage, it became clear to me we needed to revisit the ordinance," Marshall said.

Parker said Avesta is committed to the LEED program and plans to build green and energy-efficient buildings. He said the group is not seeking waivers for two other developments.

"We are fully behind the LEED program," he said.

Parker said the agency is pursuing LEED Gold certification, at a cost of about $78,000, for Phase II of Pearl Place. The year-long project is slated to get started this fall, he said.

Platinum certification is being sought for 37 artists lofts on Oak Street, at a cost of about $20,000. That project is already underway and should be fully leased by next spring, he said.

Parker said additional costs of removing and disposing of contaminated soils have also driven up the Adams project costs.

But the waiver requests have prompted a general review of the ordinance.

The Green Building Incentive Task Force has recommended several changes to the council's Energy and Environmental Sustainability Committee.

In a July 7 memo, the task force (composed of city officials, developers, business leaders and a green building expert) recommended increasing the trigger for LEED certification from $25,000 to $200,000.

It also recommends, among others, removing renovations from the ordinance and allowing any third-party green certification, rather than requiring LEED.
While discouraged that the Green Building Code has not worked out as well as anticipated, Marshall said he remains committed to developing policies that ensure that tax-funded developers are building energy-efficient buildings.

"Especially when most of our buildings are heated with home heating fuel, it's just so important we change the ways in our construction to create better performing buildings," he said.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


Committee mulls plans to counter sea level rises
By David Carkhuff
Jul 07, 2011 12:00 am

Waves over 10 feet high battered Portland during the Patriot's Day Storm in mid-April 2007, yielding the seventh highest tide since the early 1900s.

Today, a city committee is considering the impacts if storms like the Patriot's Day Storm strike in tandem with another feared event — projected rises in sea levels attributed to the effects of climate change.

"The Patriot’s Day Storm will long be remembered for its meteorological significance and devastating power," recalls the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System. "Violent waves destroyed homes, businesses, coastal roads, and beaches, while forceful winds tore down power lines leaving many residents in the dark for days."

"We want to be able to start planning our investments to be able to avoid those kinds of capital costs in the future," said City Councilor Dave Marshall, chair of Portland's Energy and Environmental Sustainability Committee. The committee is mulling a planning effort that would help the city cope with rising sea levels, as part of its meeting today at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

"Tide gauge measurements and satellite altimetry suggest that sea level has risen worldwide approximately 4.8-8.8 inches (12-22 cm) during the last century," according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Many scientists say manmade global warming contributes to these changes in sea levels. The EPA states that "the addition of greenhouse gases and aerosols has changed the composition of the atmosphere. The changes in the atmosphere have likely influenced temperature, precipitation, storms and sea level." Not everyone agrees, and skeptics point to a lull in global warming between 1998 and 2008 as one counterargument to the theory that people are affecting the planet's climate. (And on Tuesday, Washington Post blogger Andrew Freedman even cited a new study that blames the 10-year lull in global warming on China's coal use and air pollution, arguing that coal actually screens the Earth from the sun's heat.)

As the issue of climate change is debated, Portland is looking to position itself to mitigate the impacts of storm surges and sea level rises.

"We're trying to get the city administration to start going through a planning process to plan our capital investments around the impact of sea level rise," Marshall said.

The Patriots Day storm cost a huge amount in infrastructure damage, Marshall recalled. The city had to rebuild the East End Trail, Back Cove and portions of Bayside.

"When that storm came in, Bayside was substantially flooded, Commercial Street was flooded," Marshall said. "Even without a storm when you go out to Marginal Way during the spring high tide you can have standing high water on the street."

Commercial Street and Bayside are among the "areas we claimed from the ocean a while ago," Marshall said, and as sea levels have risen, those areas could face damage. The ideal long-term vision would avoid putting money into areas that aren't adequately protected, he noted.

"It's really an immediate issue, and it's not something that we should put off," Marshall said.

The meeting agenda suggests a city council resolution asking city staff to launch the process.

"We haven't discussed hiring a consultant," Marshall added, but if staff came back and asked for help, the city council could consider it, he said.

Measure making marijuana 'lowest police priority' advances
By Casey Conley
Jul 06, 2011 12:00 am

Sensible Portland, the group behind a citizen-petition to make marijuana enforcement the lowest priority for city police, says it has gathered enough signatures to put the initiative on the November ballot.

In a Monument Square press conference yesterday, the group’s leadership said they are hoping the proposal will spur “an adult conversation” about marijuana policy that could spread well beyond city limits.

“To be clear, we hope that this measure is a step toward the eventual end of prohibition of marijuana in this country,” said John Eder, a spokesman for Sensible Portland and a former Green Party state representative. “This local ordinance isn't a small thing.

“Most movements start locally, and this movement will have its effect on the state, … and it will have its effect nationally, as Maine joins the chorus of states and cities that are going on record saying they want to end the prohibition of marijuana for persons over the age of 21,” Eder continued.

Sensible Portland’s proposal would amend city statutes to codify that possession-level marijuana offenses, for non-violent adults who are 21 or older, would be the lowest enforcement priority for city police.

A summary of the ordinance provided yesterday by Sensible Portland said the ordinance aimed to prohibit police from arresting or fining non-violent adults 21 or older for possession-level offenses, or “ascertaining the possession” of marijuana or paraphernalia.

Exemptions to those provisions are built in to the ordinance for persons who are either committing a violent act, or have a previous conviction for a violent crime.

Under Maine law, possession of a "usable amount" of the drug — less than 2.5 ounces — is considered a civil penalty punishable by fines up to $1,000. Possession of drug paraphernalia is also a civil penalty, punishable by a $300 fine.

Marijuana-related infractions can escalate depending on the nature of the offense. Possession of more than 2.5 ounces is considered intent to sell, which can lead to jail time and fines of up to $20,000. Sale of paraphernalia can also lead to jail time.

The ordinance does not explictly seek to prohibit police from intervening in drug sales that involve marijuana.

By directing police to focus on matters other than petty possession, the group hopes additional resources will be focused on violent crime and “harder” drugs. The measure also aims to protect medical marijuana patients from harassment if federal authorities crack down on legal use of the drug.

“We don’t want to take it for granted, we want to codify that this is our lowest law enforcement priority, because with a new incoming chief and a new incoming mayor, those priorities could shift,” Eder said.

The proposed ordinance doesn’t prohibit local police from interacting with federal drug authorities. There is no sanction against city police for ignoring the ordinance, should it pass.

As drafted, the ordinance calls on the mayor to report back to the city council each year with details on how well the ordinance is being followed.

The Sensible Portland measure was based on existing ordinances in places like Seattle, Oakland and Denver, as well as policies enacted in smaller municipalities in Montana and Arkansas.

Although most city ordinances aren’t created through referendum, there have been some notable exceptions over the years. For example, city residents in 1987 voted nearly 2-1 to enact new zoning rules designed to protect the working waterfront.

Over the past five weeks, a handful of volunteers with Sensible Portland have collected more than 2,100 signatures — well above the 1,500-signature threshold required by city statute. The city clerk now has 15 days to verify those signatures.

If that occurs, the measure will go to the city council, which can either vote to approve the ordinance amendments (something seen as unlikely) or place it on the Nov. 8 city ballot, which will also decide the city’s first elected mayor in more than 80 years.

Anna Trevorrow, a former charter commissioner and state Green Party chair, said yesterday that she and other volunteers witnessed plenty of support in Portland for initiatives like this one that "get us closer to progressive marijuana policy reform."

"We met with great response from Portland voters who were signing eagerly, who were not sure why marijuana was not already legal," she said, adding, “We feel that this goes beyond decriminalization."

She said the group has not discussed the proposal with Portland police.

Assistant Chief Mike Sauschuck — who will take over administration of Portland police department once Chief James Craig leaves for his new post in Cincinnati — declined to comment on the proposed amendments.

In an email, he did say that the department is “looking forward to working with the City Council and staff in regards to this issue but we have had no discussions with 'Sensible Portland' and have no official comment at this point.”

Councilor Dave Marshall, who sits on the council’s Public Safety Committee, said yesterday that he is “supportive of the petitioners and their effort to bring this to referendum.”

“I think the referendum is the most appropriate place for this issue to be addressed,” he said.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

‘Artist in residence’ program at 660 Congress St. never materialized
By Casey Conley
Jun 23, 2011 12:00 am

A vacant building in the upper Arts District owned by millionaire philanthropist Roxanne Quimby has been put up for sale.

Tom Moulton, an agent with NAI/The Dunham Group, confirmed yesterday that the three-story townhouse at 660 Congress St. was on the market. He said the asking price was $295,000 — roughly $55,000 less than Quimby paid for it in May 2009.

The 7,200-square-foot building was listed just a few days ago.

Quimby, who was a co-founder of the natural skincare company Burt’s Bees, bought the building with the intention of converting it into studio space for emerging artists. The concept was praised by city officials and nearby businesses, but the “artist in residence” vision never materialized at that site.

Indeed, the project was beset by one hurdle after another.

In late 2009, Quimby asked for and received a special exemption from the city council allowing her to avoid $405,000 in fees, but the decision was not without controversy. At issue was her plan to convert seven upper-floor apartments into artist space.

Those conversion plans ran afoul of the city’s housing replacement ordinance, which at that time required developers to pay a $58,000 fee for any housing unit that they eliminated.

Housing advocates urged the city not to grant the exemption, and three city councilors voted against it (including current Mayor Nick Mavodones). The ordinance has since been amended, removing the exemption granted to Quimby.

In early 2010, an arsonist set the building ablaze, causing moderate smoke and fire damage. Since then, the boarded-up building has just sat there.

Portland’s Historic Preservation committee also denied a request to remove large bay windows from the first floor of the building and replace them with another window style.

Quimby abandoned the idea of opening the artist colony at 660 Congress last summer.

"It was a whole variety of things," Councilor Dave Marshall said, when asked what caused the project to fall apart.

"I think the idea of having an artist colony seems good at first, but once she got an idea of ... what the colony would look like, it got to point where it didn't make much sense to use that building," he continued.

Marshall said Quimby's vision for the site, a textile and culinary program, needed open spaces not found at 660 Congress.

Attempts to reach Quimby were not successful yesterday.

According to a website for The Quimby Colony, she hasn't given up on the artist in residence program.

The website says the artist-in-residence program will be run out of a property at 769 Congress St., which was formerly home to The Roma restaurant.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the artist colony had actually opened.

Marshall, whose district includes 660 Congress, said the potential sale of the vacant building was a positive thing for the neighborhood.

“I am hopeful to see a project move forward that will have a positive impact on the community,” he said, adding that he was "optimistic about seeing some development occur there in the near future.”

Moulton, the commercial broker, said the building could have many different uses, including a mix of commercial and residential space. Despite challenging real estate conditions, he predicted a buyer could be found.

“It’s among the last un-renovated buildings on the Peninsula on Congress Street,” he said, adding that “because of its size, it is set up for a small to medium size development.”

Work crews spent much of the day yesterday inside the building preparing it for a sale. According to Moulton, the structure itself is stable despite suffering smoke damage last January. He said the building had largely been gutted.

Built in 1900, the structure was designed by well-known Portland architect Francis Fassett, who also developed part of the Maine Medical Center campus and several West End mansions.

City records show 660 Congress is valued at about $175,000 by the city assessor. The building has sat vacant since 2007.
660 Congress Street

The building at 660 Congress Street owned by Roxanne Quimby has been put up for sale. Asking price is $295,000.
- Casey Conley

City approves $31M tax breaks for Thompson’s Pt. project
By Casey Conley
Jun 22, 2011 12:00 am

As expected, the city council on Monday unanimously approved tax breaks worth an estimated $31.4 million for developers of The Forefront, a mixed-use hotel, office and convention center project planned for Thompson’s Point.

In a separate vote, the council voted down a measure that would have capped the overall value of the tax breaks during the 30-year agreement. That vote failed 5-3 with councilors Dave Marshall, John Anton and Cheryl Leeman in the minority.

Approval of the tax-increment financing deal between the city and developers allows the city to retain roughly 46 percent of new property tax revenues generated from the $100 million development. Developers would keep 54 percent of that new property tax revenue, estimated at $31.4 million to the city’s $26.4 million over the life of the agreement.

Those figures are just estimates, and could change up or down based on future tax rates and the overall valuation of the property.

Not all of that $26.4 million will make it into the city’s general fund budget. Councilors Monday night voted to divert 25 percent of its share of annual revenues from the development into a special fund for transportation improvements. The city council didn’t make any decisions this week on how it would spend that money.

Thompson’s Point Development Co. has proposed building a convention center, two office buildings, a hotel, parking garage and concert venue on Thompson’s Point, in the city’s Libbytown neighborhood. The convention center could be configured into a 3,500-seat arena for the Maine Red Claws minor league basketball team.

Jon Jennings, a principal in the development group, says the project will become a true destination in Portland. He has said the concept is similar to the L.A. Live complex in downtown Los Angeles that's home to the Staples Center basketball arena and other entertainment venues.

Construction is scheduled to begin early next year and wrap up in late 2013.

Approval came less than two weeks after the tax break plan — the largest in the city’s history — was first unveiled to the public. The city council held a special meeting June 13 for the sole purpose of advancing the measure, a step no councilor could recall happening before.

Councilors accelerated the review largely because developers said throughout the process that the project might fall apart if the tax breaks weren’t approved before the end of June.

With the tax break question now settled, the project is heading to the planning stages. It is due to come before the planning board for a workshop on Tuesday, June 28 at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Property Owners Catch Break On New Graffiti Rules
Watered-down graffiti ordinance passes after fines removed
By Casey Conley
Jun 22, 2011 12:00 am

Property owners that fail to remove graffiti from their buildings won’t be fined under new rules passed by the city council this week.

But the ordinance, which passed unanimously Monday night, gives the city authority to remove graffiti from private property and charge the landowner for the work, plus a fee.

The ordinance also includes civil penalties for graffiti vandals caught in the act, offers new guidelines regarding how local stores should regulate the sale of spray cans and paint markers and gives police authority to issue citations for possession of these so-called “graffiti implements.”

People under 18 years old would also be banned from buying graffiti implements without a parent’s consent. The civil penalties come in addition to any criminal charges authorities might levy against vandals accused of writing graffiti.

The new rules take effect July 20.

Trish McAllister, the city’s neighborhood prosecutor, said yesterday that she was concerned that fewer property owners would comply without the threat of a fine.

“That being said, I definitely think passage of the ordinance last night is a great step in the right direction,” she said. “I understand the council's actions completely; they were responsive to the concerns from the public, and I truly do respect that.”

The ordinance was first introduced about six months ago to target graffiti, a problem city officials believe is getting worse. The proposal was built largely upon a similar measure in South Portland that has been largely successful without resorting to fines.

During the roughly four-month review, residents and landlords demonstrated strong support for the intent of the new rules but uneasiness about the fines.

Several downtown building owners argued that fining victims of a crime was not the right approach. Those who supported the fines, including city officials, police and some landlords, said they were necessary to give the ordinance teeth.

The final version of the ordinance represents something of a compromise.

Under the new rules, the city will send notices to property owners if graffiti is left on their home or building. The property owner would have 10 days to present the city with a plan for removing that graffiti.

If the property owner ignores the notice or fails to respond, the city could send crews to remove the graffiti and then bill the owner for the work, plus the 10 percent administrative fee. The city would need permission to gain access to the property. Failure to pay the fee could result in a lien placed on the property.

Brad McCurtain, who owns a building near Monument Square, was among those who spoke out against the fines. He said the council did the right thing by backing away from that proposal.

“That would have been very scary for real estate ownership in the city had that passed the way it was worded,” McCurtain said Tuesday, adding that the language was vague and wouldn't allow property owners to appeal the fine.

An amendment proposed by Councilor Dave Marshall to remove the fines, which ranged from $100 or less for first offenses to $500 for three or more offenses, passed 5-3.

Another amendment that called for the city to create internal policies for how it will adhere to the ordinance for any graffiti left on public property also passed.

“Using a punitive fine system in order to try to encourage property owners to remove graffiti after the property has been vandalized is not the way to go,” Marshall said yesterday.

“I am really glad the council sided with them in removing the fines so that we can work proactively with property owners to remove graffiti from private public property,” he continued.

Aside from new rules and regulations, the city is planning to launch an database shortly that lets residents report graffiti, submit photos and provide exact address information. That system is still in the works, but McAllister said it could include an iPhone or Android app that lets residents report graffiti from their smartphones.

Officials believe the database could encourage people to report graffiti, will lead to quicker removal and also help police track patterns. If a graffiti vandal is caught, that photo evidence could lead to more serious charges against the perpetrator, authorities say.

New Portland graffiti ordinance
removes fines for property owners

But 'taggers' can be fined $500 and be required to do community service.

By Dennis Hoey
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — People who get caught vandalizing property with graffiti will be punished, and their victims won't, under a new ordinance adopted Monday night by the City Council.

The ordinance, which was developed over the course of about six months, passed unanimously.

The minority bloc of councilors opposed an amendment, offered by Councilor David Marshall, that removed an escalating system of fines for property owners who fail to remove graffiti after their buildings get "tagged" by vandals.

Without those fines, which would have ranged from $100 for the first offense to $500 for three or more violations, those councilors said the ordinance would be too weak to compel property owners to comply.

Coyne said it would be like having a spayed pit bull – threatening, but ineffective.

Their arguments failed to persuade the majority of councilors, who supported Marshall's amendment.

"We don't need fines in order to have an effective ordinance," Marshall said.

He noted that the ordinance will require property owners to file plans with the city for removing graffiti within 10 days.

The ordinance also contains penalties.

Anyone who puts graffiti on public or private property can be fined $500 and be required to do at least 25 hours of community service.

Possession or furnishing of graffiti instruments could subject an offender to a fine of as much as $250.

If the city removes the graffiti, the property owner will be charged the cost of removal, plus a 10 percent administrative fee.

Doug Fuss, a bar and restaurant owner in the Old Port, lobbied for passage of the ordinance with fines for property owners who don't remove graffiti. Fuss said the war on graffiti can't be won unless the graffiti is removed quickly.

James Harmon, who owns 130 rental units in Portland, said he supports the ordinance, but not the fines.

"I think the fines are unfair," he said.

"Don't victimize the victims all over again," said Charles Bragdon, a Portland resident.

Suslovic, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee, said there is widespread consensus in the community that graffiti is a problem. "It seems to be everywhere," he said.

Along with Marshall, the councilors who voted to pass the ordinance were Jill Duson, John Anton, Dory Waxman and Mayor Nicholas Mavodones.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Posted: June 21
Updated: Today at 5:18 PM

Portland approves tax break
for Thompson's Point development

City councilors also decide to fund transit projects with one-quarter of the tax money generated by the project over 30 years.

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – The City Council approved a $31 million, 30-year tax break for a new development on Thompson’s Point early today and decided to set aside 25 percent of the money the city will receive, to be used for transit projects.

The council did not specify how it will use the transit money, although Councilor David Marshall pointed out it would be enough to pay for an express bus from the Portland International Jetport to the Portland Transportation Center – next to the proposed Thompon’s Point development – and then on to the Maine State Pier.

The tax break drew some opposition at the late-night public hearing, but a number of downtown development and transit officials praised the proposal, to be called The Forefront at Thompson’s Point, as a spur to economic development and a job creator.

The $100 million project will include two office buildings, a hotel, an arena/convention center, a concert hall and a parking garage. The developers said they need the tax break to cover higher costs due to the marine clay on the site, as well as a costly rail crossing. Their timeline calls for getting city and state approvals by the end of the year, with construction getting under way early next year.

The city will take in an estimated $26.4 million over 30 years, with 25 percent – or about $6.6 million in total – going toward transit.

Staff Writer Edward Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: emurphy@press

Posted: June 21

Updated: Today at 12:37 AM

Project to help Casco Bay gets fast-tracked, will increase sewer rates

Portland's City Council decides to act more quickly on stopping storm-driven sewage that overflows into the bay.

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The City Council voted to speed up a costly sewer project Monday, deciding to fix most of the overflow points that dump raw sewage into Portland's waterways in 15 years. City staff had recommended spreading the work – and the cost – over 25 years.

The sewage project, which will cost $170 million and triple most homeowners' sewer rates, even surprised several representatives of the Friends of Casco Bay who had turned out to urge the council to step up the pace of a project that is already three years overdue.

"The council listened," said Joe Payne, baykeeper for Friends of Casco Bay. "They're ready to say, 'We're done with dumping raw sewage into Casco Bay.' "

The city's public services staff had suggested a 25-year timetable for the work, which will end most of the sewage overflows that occur in heavy rain. But councilors said they think the project, which will dramatically decrease the amount of sewage that goes into the bay, needs to be done sooner.

The city signed an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency in 1993 to close most of the overflows, which are relief valves that keep the sewer system from backing up when heavy rain is combined with sanitary sewers.

Because most of the city's household and industrial waste flows through the same pipes that carry storm runoff, heavy rain can overtax the system, creating the need for overflow points that allow both rainwater and raw sewage to run into Casco Bay, the Fore River, Portland Harbor and Back Cove.

But the work to create separate lines for the two types of sewage has run behind. By the time the official deadline for fixing 33 of the 39 overflows passed in 2008, only nine had been done. And the projections for the rest of the work topped $500 million.

Now, city officials have come up with a system that relies on underground storage conduits to hold the sewage and storm water in heavy rains until the city's water treatment plant can catch up, cutting the cost to $170 million.

The plan also uses "green" methods, such as "rain gardens" which are designed to absorb rainwater and allow it to flow into the ground rather than running into catch basins.

Payne and others said a 25-year timetable would stretch out the work until at least 2038 -- the new phase of the project begins in 2013 -- more than three decades beyond the original agreement for closing most of the overflows.

"Twenty-five years is too long," Payne told the council. "It's going to be inherited by our kids and grandkids."

The council considered and ultimately rejected a compromise proposal to do the work over 20 years.

It also considered asking city staff members to work up cost estimates and work schedules showing how the project would be handled if the timetable was for 15, 20 or 25 years.

Ultimately, however, they went with the faster fix.

"We're going to have to pay for this sooner or later," said Councilor David Marshall.

It will actually be homeowners and businesses paying the bill, however, through higher rates that will pay off the bonds used to borrow the money.

City projections are that either the 15- or 25-year plan will triple rates and a typical homeowner's sewer bill will rise from about $400 a year currently to about $1,300 once the full impact of the bond bills kicks in.

The 15-year plan plan means bills will hit that point in about eight years.

The tax break vote was delayed by several lengthy public hearings Monday night.

Councilors are considering a tax increment financing plan that would allow the developers to get back about $31 million out of more than $56 million they will pay in property taxes over 30 years if the $100 million project, The Forefront at Thompson's Point, goes through.

The developers said the TIF would allow them to cover high costs from developing the site, which contains marine clay and will require piles to be driven about 100 feet to reach bedrock.

They are also including several public enhancements, such as a 700-car parking garage, that will be made more affordable by the tax break, the developers said.

The project as proposed will include two office buildings, a hotel, an arena/convention center and a concert hall in addition to the garage.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Some councilors irked by ‘unusual’ special meeting
By Casey Conley
Jun 14, 2011 12:00 am

The proposed $100 million project at Thompson’s Point could fall apart if the city doesn’t act on $31 million in tax breaks by month's end, developers said yesterday.

Jon Jennings, a principal in the project known as “The Forefront,” said that “more than likely the project won’t go forward in Portland” if the tax breaks aren’t finalized by the end of June.

“We have asked for a time line that would get us through the process by the end of the month because we have some extraordinary costs we are obligated to do by the first part of July,” Jennings said.

He declined to comment on whether the project might move ahead in another municipality if it falls through in Portland.

Jennings added that the investment team behind the project must soon make a “sizable payment” on a 25-acre development plot, and that they won’t make that type of commitment unless “we know we are working in a cooperative fashion” with the city.

To that end, the city council held a special meeting last night that addressed the proposed 30-year tax-increment financing plan for the development, which would include a conference center, hotel, office buildings, a restaurant, and 3,500-seat arena for the Maine Red Claws minor league basketball team.

The special meeting caught at least one city councilor by surprise, and its timing was questioned by at least two other councilors.

The tax deal, which was endorsed less than a week ago by the city council’s Community Development Committee, would let developers keep $31.4 million out of an estimated $58 million in new property taxes over 30 years.

The city would receive about $26.4 million of that tax revenue spread over 30 years, minus 3 percent that would be set aside each year in a fund for transportation improvements.

If the site is left undeveloped, it will generate about $3 million in property taxes over the next 30 years. Currently, the parcel is home to a propane company and the rail authority that runs the Amtrak Downeaster train.

Thompson’s Point is located at the end of Sewell Street, just steps from the Portland Transportation Center, in the city’s Libbytown neighborhood.

A study commissioned by developers said the project would create more than 1,200 jobs during construction and sustain about 450 jobs each year afterward. The project is due to be completed in late 2013. Those figures could not be independently confirmed.

Regardless, some city councilors weren’t thrilled that a special city council meeting was called to give the tax deal a first reading, a step one councilor called “unusual.”

Major agreements like this one require two readings by the city council before a vote can be held.

“I do not see the need to move so fast,” Councilor John Anton said in an email. “The developer has yet to identify tenants for the office buildings and says that they can't close unless they have tenants. My understanding is that they have a $100,000 payment due to the seller, which I believe can be extended.”

“It is unusual,” Councilor Kevin Donoghue said of the meeting. “It is not yet known to me how or why the judgment was made that a special meeting was warranted.”

Mayor Nick Mavodones said he called the meeting on the request of the Community Development Committee. He added that he wants to see this TIF matter settled by the end of June.

Councilor Dave Marshall said scheduling the first reading for a special meeting was “not the cleanest way to move forward” but added that developers were pressuring the city to make a decision this month.

“It’s not common for the council to have special meetings to get a first reading on the agenda, and it’s really the desire of the developer to get the financing in place based on the pressure the developers are receiving from their investors,” Marshall said. “That’s what’s gotten the city to this place.”

Marshall said he was “not totally comfortable with the process being laid out” regarding the TIF discussion.

“I would prefer to follow the regular process, where we would have a regular first reading at a regularly scheduled meeting,” he said.

Developers say the tax-increment financing deal is necessary to offset higher-than-normal costs due to unusual soil conditions at the site. Also, upgrades at a railroad crossing on the site are expected to cost upwards of $1 million.

Speaking to city councilors yesterday, Jennings said the project would become a “true destination” in the city similar to L.A. Live, the development in Los Angeles that includes the Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, among other venues. He and other supporters cite the project's proximity to multiple modes of transit and say it offers amenities not currently found in the Portland market.

The development is expected to meet LEED silver conservation standards or better, and include free public access to trails and a boat launch into the Fore River.

Jennings said developers have a “pretty aggressive time line” in place because the development window on a project like this can "open and close quickly." “Any number of things could impact (the project) if we extended it over a long time,” he told councilors.

At the special meeting and a workshop that preceded it, councilors inquired about potential demand for new hotels and office space amid high vacancy rates downtown and also wondered if the 3 percent figure to be set aside annually for transportation could be adjusted.

City economic director Greg Mitchell said the amount of money set aside for transportation each year could be amended up or down in the future. He p the office towers at Thompson’s Point wouldn’t compete with vacant office space on Congress Street, and pointed to new hotel construction as evidence that the market needs more rooms.

Councilors didn’t take action on the tax break proposal last night. A vote on the issue is expected at the city council’s June 20 meeting.

Copyright 2011, The Portland Daily Sun - Portland's Daily Newspaper - One Longfellow Square, Suite 202, Portland, ME 04102 - (207) 699-5801

Posted: June 14
Updated: Today at 12:13 AM

Portland councilors consider how to spend tax revenue from Forefront

One councilor wants to increase the amount of tax revenue set aside to support transit projects.

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — City councilors considering a tax break for developers of a proposed $100 million complex at Thompson's Point are starting to think about how they might spend the city's share of new property tax money the project would generate.

The council was briefed Monday on the proposed break of $31 million over 30 years for The Forefront at Thompson's Point, a development that will include a basketball arena/convention center, concert hall, hotel, two office buildings and 700-car garage on a site that has changed little in the past century but is considered a prime gateway into Portland.

The council will be asked next week to name the Thompson's Point peninsula a tax increment financing district. The designation allows the developers to have some of their property taxes returned to them – 54 percent of nearly $58 million in projected property tax payments over the next three decades.

The city takes a smaller share of taxes – $26.4 million over 30 years – in return for the development and revenue it might not otherwise get.

City officials also note that The Forefront will provide an estimated 1,230 jobs during construction next year and into 2013 and about 455 permanent jobs once the development is operating.

The Thompson's Point district would be a transit-oriented TIF because of its location next to I-295, the Portland Transportation Center bus and rail station and near the Portland International Jetport.

The council's Community Development Committee voted last week to recommend setting aside 3 percent of the city's share of the tax revenue to support as-yet-unspecified transit projects.

But Monday, Councilor David Marshall said he will seek to increase that figure.

"It's going to be a lot more than 3 percent – probably in the 30 to 50 percent range," he said.

Marshall said that amount will be needed to support a bus route to and from the airport to Thompson's Point and the transportation center, then into downtown Portland and the Maine State Pier.

That route, he said, would tie all of the city's major forms of transportation together – planes, trains, buses and ferries.

Other than Marshall signaling that he's looking to direct more money toward transportation, little new came out at the council's workshop on the project.

Mayor Nicholas Mavodones asked about a cap on the dollar amount that developers could get from the TIF, but the developers said that would take away any incentive to upgrade the project.

If a tenant wants a more energy-efficient building, for instance, the developers could offset the higher cost with an increase in its TIF share because the development would be worth more.

Before the workshop on the Thompson's Point TIF, the council was briefed on a costly sewer upgrade that will also be on next week's agenda.

Eighteen years ago, the city agreed to fix 33 of the 39 combined sewer overflow points in Portland by 2008, but only nine have been repaired. The overflows are relief valves of sorts for occasions when heavy rain flows into storm sewers, many of which are still combined with sanitary sewers.

During storms, runoff from heavy rain could overtax sewer lines, causing them to back up, so the system has relief points that open to ease the pressure, allowing untreated sewage to flow into streams, rivers, Portland Harbor and Back Cove.

The city has been working to install separate storm and sewer lines, but continuing along that path means a bill of more than $500 million, Michael Bobinsky, Portland's director of public services, told the council.

Instead, the city now wants to install storage conduits underground which will hold more water during storms, ideally until the city's wastewater treatment plant can catch up.

The biggest sticking point is timing. Bobinsky is recommending the council install the conduits, along with some other measures to deal with downpours, at a cost of $170 million over 25 years.

Friends of Casco Bay and the Conservation Law Foundation are pushing for a project.

Bobinsky said both approaches will triple sewer rates, from slightly more than $400 a year now to more than $1,200, but it will take longer for rates to hit that point under the 25-year plan.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Study: State is bike-friendly, but lacking enforcement
By Matt Dodge
May 26, 2011 12:00 am

Maine might be the second most bike-friendly state in the nation, but it’s not very strict when it comes to enforcing bike safety laws, a study released this week finds.

The annual rankings, released by The League of American Bicyclists, placed Maine behind only Washington state in the list of bike-friendliness. However, in reviewing for the first time the performance of states in six distinct areas, Maine received an “F” in the category of enforcement.

The state’s overall grade on the study was a “B”, with the state excelling in legislation, education and encouragement, and infrastructure, evaluation and planning.

Many in the local and state-wide bicycling community acknowledge a lack of such enforcement both on the driver and cyclist side of the equation.

“I do think it is the area we are the weakest in. We need to work more closely with law enforcement so they both better understand bicycling laws and have the confidence to enforce them,” said Nancy Grant, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and a Portland resident.

“I think a lot more people would ride correctly if they knew somebody was going to say something,” Grant said.

The most common bike-related traffic offenses in Portland include cyclist riding on the sidewalk or against the flow of traffic, according to Grant, who thinks that Portland Police are often not familiar enough with cycling laws to feel comfortable enforcing them. “Sometimes they’re not even sure what thew laws are and they don’t want to hassle bicyclists,” she said.

To that end, Grant said the Bicycle Coalition is working to connect with law enforcement, having recently hosted a meeting between the group’s education director and the chiefs of some Maine police departments. “We want to have a really cooperative relationship with law enforcement,” she said.

Portland Police did not return multiple calls seeking comment on their enforcement efforts.

An avid cyclist who does a lot of riding in the city, Grant said that cycling scofflaws represent a small part of the local bike community, and are often just uninformed.

“I think the vast majority of the riders who aren’t obeying the rules either simply don't know or don't follow any rules anywhere,” she said.

City Councilor David Marshall, a member of the Portland’s Transportation Committee and a bike commuter, said that while there are already rules on the books governing bike safety, “we could certainly use more enforcement.”

“It could probably go a long way towards getting other bicyclist to comply with the rules,” Marshall said, who like Grant, acknowledges that a small percentage of the city’s cycling populace account for a majority of the violations.

Most of the bicycle-related discussion coming out of the Transportation Committee has been in regards to infrastructure improvements, said Marshall, who suggested that further education might make an increased focus on enforcement unnecessary.

“It’s certainly worth putting some attention on enforcing the rules, but you also want to educate the public about what the rules are,” he said.

Josh Cridler, owner of local bike retail and repair shop Portland Velocipede, said that an increased focus on enforcement could go a long way in strengthening the relationship between the cyclist and motorist who share the city’s streets.

“It would get cars to realize that it’s going both ways. I think that when just cars are getting pulled over and see a bike not following a law, that gets people get more angry about bicycles on the road,” said Cridler. “It’s important that the law goes both ways, if one party sees the other party following the rules, everybody falls into suit.”

While they all agree the city could beef up its enforcement efforts, neither Grant, Marshall or Cridler support the idea of forcing bicycle to be registered and licensed through the city, an idea recently floated by a state Assemblyman in the New York City borough of Queens.

Two bills introduced by Michael G. DenDekker would have required commercial cyclists to pay a $50 registration fee and all other cyclists to pay a $25 registration fee. The measure was in response to a number of complaints DenDekker said he received from constituents, who complained that unsafe cyclists were not being held accountable.

“Constituents were complaining that if a bike is involved in any incident and they ride away, there is no way to identify them,” DenDekker told the New York Times.

“I think it would hurt the perception of our bike friendliness,” said Grant. “Other states in the country have tried the registration requirement and they’ve all abandoned it because it’s so hard to enforce and the fees that are generated end up being less than the cost of administering the registration program,” she said.

“We would rather have enforcement groups working on safety than whether people have paid a fee or not,” she said.

May 19

Ranked-choice balloting is wild card in mayor's race
Candidates will be 'guinea pigs' in a campaign where no one is really sure what will work, an analyst says.

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - The chance to be the city's first elected mayor in generations is attracting a long list of candidates who also will have the distinction of being the first Maine politicians content to be a voter's second or third choice, thanks to ranked-choice voting.

Ten candidates have registered with the city so far, meaning they are free to raise money and build a campaign organization.

Nominating papers, which will require signatures of at least 300 Portland voters, will be available July 1 and must be returned to the city clerk between Aug. 15 and Aug. 29.

The ballot is expected to get even more crowded in the coming weeks, with candidates attracted by the full-time job -- it will pay about $66,000 a year -- the four-year term, some limited powers and the ability to set precedents.

"We're looking for our George Washington, someone who can take the position and transform it," said Jim Cohen, a former councilor and mayor who was on the charter commission that drafted the rules making the mayor position subject to ranked-choice voting. Voters ratified the charter in November.

Cohen said supporters believe an elected mayor is needed to provide leadership and establish a long-range vision for the city. Currently, mayors are city councilors who are chosen by their peers and hold the largely ceremonial post for one year.

Cohen is now involved in a group called Portland Tomorrow, whose members have developed a list of criteria they'd like to see in a mayor. Cohen reiterated that he's not running.

The organization also plans to publicize the ranked-choice election method, under which voters will mark their ballots not only for the candidate they'd like to see win, but also rank the rest in order of preference.

If no candidate gets a majority of first-place votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is dropped and the second choices of those voters are added to the first-choice totals for all other candidates. It's possible that the new totals would require a change in the order of finish.

If no one has a majority after one candidate is dropped, the new last-place candidate is dropped and his or her second-choice votes are added to the first-choice totals. If any voter's second choice is a candidate who's already been eliminated, the voter's third choice gets the vote, and so on.

The process continues until one candidate gets more than 50 percent. Voters need not rank all the candidates, but that would reduce their say if the runoff process continues for more than a round or two.

Michael Brennan, a former state legislator who recently announced his mayoral candidacy, said the ranked-choice approach will mean less negative campaigning.

In a conventional race with so many candidates, one might go on the attack, hoping to galvanize supporters and get perhaps a quarter or a third of the vote, likely enough to win with 10 or more names on the ballot, he said.

"In this race, you can't do that, or at least you can't do that successfully," he said.

The large field will probably separate into a group of front-runners, all jockeying to stand out while not turning off the other candidates' supporters, said Edward S. O'Meara Jr., managing principal for public affairs at Garrand, a Portland communications company.

Ranked-choice voting, he said, means the candidates in this year's race are "guinea pigs," where no one can really be sure what will work.

"You don't necessarily have to get more votes, but you need to be a very strong number two or everybody's number three," he said. "It's uncharted territory."

Maybe for Maine, but San Francisco has had ranked voting -- also known as instant-runoff voting, because it ends up with a winner getting more than 50 percent of the vote -- since 2004.

Francis Neely, an associate professor of political science at San Francisco State University, said exit polls he conducted have indicated that four out of five voters like the method. But in the first two races run under the system, 30 percent to 40 percent went to the polls not realizing they would be asked to rank candidates.

Neely said San Francisco's system allows voters to rank up to three candidates and it produces some strange campaign tactics. In the last election, he said, a sign on a bus stop had the names and pictures of three candidates for the same position, basically asking voters to allocate their three votes among that trio, regardless of who was picked first, second or third.

"It's not an 'either-or' thing," he said.

In every San Francisco election, the candidate who finished first in the initial round of ballot counting has gone on to win, Neely said. But in Oakland, which adopted the system more recently, a candidate who finished third in the initial count ended up winning.

The winner had specifically courted supporters of other candidates for their second- and third-choice votes, he said.

David Marshall, a councilor who is running for mayor, said voters he talks to are looking forward to choosing a mayor, even though the election is still nearly six months away.

As for ranked-choice voting, "people are trying to get a handle on it, but they're generally excited about it and think it's a system with legitimacy," he said.

Marshall said he thinks it would be a good system for other offices, such as Maine's governor, which often ends up with a winner selected by less than a majority because of independent and third-party candidates.

But that is likely years off, he said, and only if Portland's system proves successful and other cities and towns in Maine adopt it.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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