Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Eleven candidates vying for six seats in Portland

Press Herald


Yesterday at 9:11 PM

Eleven candidates vying for six seats in Portland

Only one race on Nov. 6 – the at-large School Board seat – may be uncontested.

By Randy Billings rbillings@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Eleven people have turned in signatures to compete in the Nov. 6 elections for three seats on the City Council and another three on the School Board.

Two district seats and one-at-large seat are up for grabs on both panels. Only one race – for the at-large School Board seat – is uncontested.

In District 1, Councilor Kevin Donoghue of Beckett Street has qualified for the ballot. The 32-year-old administrator for Spectrum Cos., a Cape Elizabeth-based affordable housing consultant, is finishing his second term on the council.

He is being challenged by Justin Benjamin Pollard, an Eastern Promenade resident who ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Olympia Snowe.

Pollard, a 39-year-old carpenter, previously served two years of a three-year elected term to the Blue Hill Planning Board and was appointed to its comprehensive plan committee in the 1990s.

Pollard, whose signatures still need to be verified by the city clerk's office, said he is dropping his write-in campaign for U.S. Senate to focus on local politics.

Two-term Councilor David Marshall and Shane Boyington, both of Pine Street, have qualified for the District 2 council race. Marshall, 34, is the executive director of Maine Artist Collective. Boyington, 34, is a student of political science at the University of Southern Maine with 10 years of experience in providing direct care in group homes.

Five-term Councilor Nicholas Mavodones Jr., 52, will defend his at-large council seat. Mavodones has been the operations manager of Casco Bay Lines for the past 15 years.

Mavodones, of Chenery Street, is being challenged by Wellington "Wells" Lyons, an attorney and entrepreneur with Portland's Rogue Industries. Lyons, of Danforth Street, sits on the Maine League of Young Voters' Steering Committee and the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust's Land Committee.

In the School Board races, incumbent Jenna Vendil of Vesper Street has qualified for the District 1 race. She is being challenged by Thomas Kelley, of Morning Street.

Kelley, a 26-year-old congressional liaison to Snowe, has never held elected office, but serves on the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization's Board of Directors.

In District 2, where incumbent Ed Bryan is not seeking re-election to the School Board, Jeanne Swanton of Thomas Street and Holly Seeliger of Brackett Street have qualified for the ballot.

Vendil, Swanton and Seeliger could not be immediately reached.

Incumbent Sarah Thompson is running unopposed for the at-large School Board seat.

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:


Twitter: @randybillings

Two-person races expected for three council seats

Portland Daily Sun http://www.portlanddailysun.me/index.php/newsx/local-news Two-person races expected for three council seats Written by Craig Lyons The three seats on the City Council up for election in November have shaped up to be two-person contests. When the filing deadline to be on the November ballot closed on Monday, all three incumbent councilors — Kevin Donoghue, David Marshall and Nick Mavodones — found themselves facing a challenger in their bids for re-election. As the filing deadline loomed, the District 1 seat had the potential of becoming a four-way race, though two candidates failed to return their nomination papers to the City Clerk's office. With two fewer people seeking the seat, that left Donoghue, a two-term incumbent, being challenged by Justin Benjamin Pollard, who runs a sustainable construction company and earlier this year was one of the Democratic candidates who vied to replace U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe when she retires at the end of her term in January. Pollard lost to Cynthia Dill in the June Democratic primary. The clerk's office had yet to check the signatures Pollard returned to see if he qualifies for the ballot Tuesday evening, though officials expected to know by midday on Wednesday. In District 2, Marshall — an artist and executive director of the Maine Artist Collective — is being challenged by Shane Boyington — a student at the University of Southern Maine and former shop owner. For the at-large council seat, Portland voters will choose between incumbent Mavodones — who has served on the council since 1997 and as the council-appointed mayor for several terms — and Wells Lyons — a Portland attorney, entrepreneur and activist. Aside from his experience on the council, Mavodones has served on the boards of the Portland Public School System, the Maine Municipal Association, the Maine Service Center Coalition, the Middle Schools Building Committee, the East End School Building Committee, Ecomaine, the Waterfront Alliance, the Institute for Civic Leadership, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Portland Public LIbrary, according to his former campaign website. Lyons hasn't served on any municipal boards, but has served in leadership capacities for several nonprofits groups — such as the Maine League of Young Voters. He said, during a previous interview, he's attended many city meetings to speak out on a number of issues. While the filing period to be on the ballot ended Monday, candidates have until Sept. 25 — or 45 days before the election — to declare themselves as write-in candidates. A prospective third candidate — Timothy Valliere — took out nomination papers though he hadn't returned them to the City Clerk's office by the deadline to file. The three seats on the City Council aren't the only ones on the November ballot. For the Portland School Board: • District 1: Jenna Vendil and Thomas Kelly. • District 2: Holly Seeliger and Jeanne Swanton. • At-large: Sarah Thompson. For the Peaks Island Council: • Two seats for three-year terms: Cheryl Miner and Mary Anne Mitchell. • Seat for a one-year term: Jimal Thundershield and Marjorie Phyfe. Water District: • One seat for a five-year term: Nisha Swinton and Gary Libby.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Portland hopefuls face deadline to qualify for ballot

Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com/news/Portland-hopefuls-face-deadline-to-qualify-for-ballot.html Posted: 12:24 PM Updated: 3:01 PM Portland hopefuls face deadline to qualify for ballot Two district seats and an at-large seat are up for grabs this fall on each the City Council and the School Board. By Randy Billings rbillings@mainetoday.com Staff Writer PORTLAND — Nomination papers for the City Council and School Board races are due at 4:30 p.m. this afternoon. Two district seats and an at-large seat are up for grabs this fall on each the council and board. In District 1, Councilor Kevin Donoghue of Beckett Street has qualified for the Nov. 6 ballot. The 32-year-old administrator for Spectrum Cos., a Cape Elizabeth-based affordable housing consultant, is finishing his second term on the council. But three potential District 1 challengers, including former Councilor William Gorham and Justin Benjamin Pollard, who ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Olympia Snowe, have not yet returned their papers. Two-term Councilor David Marshall and Shane Boyington, both of Pine Street, have qualified for the District 2 council race. Marshall, 34, is the executive director of Maine Artist Collective. Boyington, 34, is a student of political science at the University of Southern Maine with 10 years experience in providing direct care in group homes. In the at-large council race, Wellington "Wells" Lyons, an attorney and entrepreneur with Portland’s Rogue Industries who lives on Danforth Street, has qualified for the ballot. Councilor Nicholas Mavodones Jr. has turned in his nomination papers, but as of 11 a.m. the signatures had not been verified, according to Election Administrator Bud Philbrick. In the School Board races, incumbent Jenna Vendil has qualified for the District 1 race. Her challenger Thomas Kelley has turned in his nomination papers, but has not qualified for the ballot. In district 2, where incumbent Ed Bryan is not seeking re-election, Jeanne Swanton has qualified. Holly Seeliger returned nomination papers, but has not yet qualified. Incumbent Sarah Thompson is running unopposed for the at-large School Board seat.

Council OKs tax breaks for two Portland projects

Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com/news/council-oks-tax-breaks-for-2-projects_2012-08-07.html August 7 Council OKs tax breaks for two Portland projects But councilors say a system is needed to assess tax increment financing districts, which critics call giveaways to wealthy companies. By Dennis Hoey dhoey@mainetoday.com Staff Writer PORTLAND — Taxpayers criticized tax breaks that city councilors granted Monday night for two development projects, saying the council should not be giving financial aid to corporations. Supporters said the tax breaks will stimulate economic development on the city's eastern waterfront and generate new tax revenue. The council voted 6-2 to approved a tax increment financing district for Fore India Middle Street LLC, with Councilors John Anton and David Marshall voting against the proposal. It voted 5-3 in favor of a TIF district for the Bay House project off India Street, with Anton, Marshall and Councilor Kevin Donoghue dissenting. Councilors agreed that the city needs a better system for assessing the value of TIF requests. Critics say tax increment financing has evolved into giveaways to companies that don't face financial hardships or would develop their projects regardless of tax incentives. "I have to ask myself, 'Do we really want to miss out on an opportunity to gain new tax revenue?' My position is no," said Councilor Edward Suslovic. "It's a pretty small price we are paying to leverage a return in taxes alone." He said, however, that the city must develop a better system for evaluating TIF applications. He suggested that requests be graded on how much they benefit the public -- a major criteria of the state's law for tax increment financing. In a typical agreement, a percentage of the property-tax revenue from new development is returned to the developer to offset the cost of the project or for some agreed-upon purpose. One application that went before the council Monday night drew attention because Fore India Middle LLC sought a TIF agreement to cover the cost of installing underground utilities -- a city requirement. The developer said the cost of underground utilities could go as high as $1 million. The plan calls for a five-story, 180,000-square-foot, mixed-use project with retail space, three levels of office space and 18 residential condominiums on the site of the former Jordan's Meats plant. The request did not impress John Newton, a Matthews Street resident who spoke against both requests. "It's a poor use of our tax money," Newton said. "We should have a (TIF) policy in place before we give out tax breaks to the wealthy." Bay House will be developed by the Village at Oceangate LLC. The plan calls for two buildings with 94 market-rate apartments, a parking garage and 5,700 square feet of retail space. The project will be built on the site of the former Village Cafe. The developer bought the site in 2007 but the downturn in the economy delayed the project. The developers sought tax increment financing to cover the cost of installing sidewalks and making utility improvements -- a cost they estimate at just over $1 million. Marshall said he had reservations about giving a tax break to Bay House. That TIF will be nullified if the developers ever convert the apartments to condos. "This particular agreement doesn't reach any level of serving the public good," Marshall said. Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: dhoey@pressherald.com

Council, airport management differ on solution to taxi cab issue

Portland Daily Sun http://www.portlanddailysun.me/index.php/newsx/local-news/7306-council-airport-management-differ-on-solution-to-taxi-cab-issue Council, airport management differ on solution to taxi cab issue Written by Craig Lyons As the Portland Jetport seeks to limit the number of non-reserved taxis, it became apparent that the facility's management and members of the City Council have differing opinions on how to achieve that goal. The airport's management ideally wants to create a lottery or request for proposal system that would reduce the number of permits to 40, though members of the City Council's Transportation, Energy and Sustainability Committee would prefer a solution to the number of cabs that doesn't leave the current permit holders without a job. To cut down on the number of non-reserved taxi permits, the airport administration began looking at leaving the system as it stands, creating a medallion system, starting a lottery for the permits or instituting an request for proposals process. Creating a lottery or RFP process are the preferred method of the jet port administration. Whatever solution is determined to be the best way to reduce the number of cabs would take effect on Jan. 1. Airport Director Paul Bradbury said the jet port instituted a cap on the number of non-reserved taxi permits at 40. He said at the time there were 51 permits and they were grandfathered. The goal was that attrition would eventually get the number of permits down to the level of the cap, said Bradbury, but the number has only gone down to 49 in nearly five years. Councilor Kevin Donoghue asked about any issues the airport is seeing with power of attorney transfers with the taxi licenses. Bradbury said taxi permit holders can in essence transfer the permit to another owner by created a very limited in scope power of attorney. He said the power of attorney setups don't expire and has given value to the taxi permits that are now limited to 40. Bradbury said 19 of the 49 existing permits are setup through a power of attorney agreement. Donoghue said he's most interested in finding a way to further the goal of attrition rather than just cutting the number of cabs down. "Find a way to make attrition work," he said. Councilor Cheryl Leeman asked Bradbury how it's possible to get the number of companies down to 40 without displacing jobs. Bradbury said attrition was the initial method of choice when the number of permits was capped at 40. "Functionally, that hasn't happened," he said. Leeman said the perpetual debate has been about how to issue the permits in a way that's fair and equitable. She said it almost seems that a lottery or RFP might be the best system. Councilor David Marshall said a lot of people's livelihoods rely on their cab businesses so it's important to consider that as a decision is made on how to issue the permits. Marshall said he felt whatever solution is pursued should not start so quickly so it gives the affected cab drivers time to organize themselves and prepare their businesses for the change. The issue of how to allot the non-register taxi permits will be back before the committee in September.

Councilor floats idea of streetcar system

Portland Daily Sun http://www.portlanddailysun.me/index.php/newsx/local-news/7305-councilor-floats-idea-of-streetcar-system Councilor floats idea of streetcar system Written by Craig Lyons City Councilor David Marshall expressed his desire to explore the feasibility of a streetcar system for Portland to a council subcommittee Wednesday night. Marshall said he'd like the city to establish a task force that would spearhead a feasibility study to explore the possibility of creating a streetcar or light rail system that would run through the downtown area. He said it's an idea that's been embraced by a number of cities as a way to expand public transportation. "This isn't out of left field or anything," Marshall said. The task force would ideally guide a consultant during a feasibility study that would be funded through a transportation grant. Both councilor Kevin Donoghue and Cheryl Leemen were hesitant to endorse the creation of a task force until they had more of an idea of what the group would consider. Leeman said it might be more appropriate to apply for the grant and do the study before setting up a task force. "There needs to be something to guide them in this process," she said. Donoghue said he'd like to see what the framework would look like for the grant application and feasibility study before a decision is made on putting together a task force. He said there are relevant planning documents the city has already developed that might be helpful to make sure the process is done well. "This is an endeavor which should be done really well," he said. Marshall said the city has had other citizen groups that have guided feasibility and planning studies, most notably the Franklin Street committee. Leeman said she's not sure that Portland has the same critical mass as other cities to support a streetcar system. "I'm open minded about the idea," she said, but thinks there needs to be some parameters before embarking on a full-fledged study. While the two councilors were hesitant, members of the public voiced support for the idea. Joan Saxe, of the Maine Sierra Club, said she's excited to hear that the city might consider some sort of a streetcar service. "I think it's a coming thing throughout the country," she said. Saxe said some of the obvious benefits would be to the elderly and to many younger people who want to use public transportation. Resident Anthony Zeli — who is one of Portland's car-less residents —said he's supportive of the idea because it could mean a lot to the city's economy. He said the streetcar route would create districts where investment could take place to reach the system's ridership. "It's a smart investment," he said, and other cities have found the streetcars and light rail systems show a huge return on investment. "Let's do it," said Tony Donovan, executive director of the Maine Rail Transit Coalition. Donovan said some sort of a fixed rail system could be a great opportunity for Portland. The system could connect transit hubs at Thompson's Point and Ocean Gate, he said, and result in economic development. A fixed rail system is a great way to support established business and encourage new ones to start, said Donovan. Marshall said he'd like the committee members to think about the idea and talk about it further at its September meeting.

City panel hashes out rules for food trucks

Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com/news/city-panel-hashes-out-rules-for-food-trucks_2012-06-22.html June 22 City panel hashes out rules for food trucks The council must vote on the proposed regulations, which limit where and when the trucks can operate. By Randy Billings rbillings@mainetoday.com Staff Writer PORTLAND - The city moved one step closer to welcoming food trucks to certain areas Thursday night, but not without reservations from the Portland Police Department, restaurant owners and landlords. Proposed regulations would allow food trucks on the peninsula from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., but only in specific locations -- largely away from downtown and existing restaurants. Off-pensinsula, they would be allowed to operate in certain business and industrial zones. From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., food trucks would be able to operate anywhere downtown, provided they are 65 feet from operating restaurants and lodging establishments. Police Cmdr. Gary Rogers said police were concerned about late-night crowds in the Old Port congregating around the trucks, noting some late-night eateries, such as Bill's Pizza, have had to adopt formal security plans to deal with unruly crowds. "An event or an occurrence down there might change the dynamic and make the food truck not a safe place to be," Rogers said. The Public Safety and Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously to recommend the food truck regulations to the City Council, which is tentatively scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote July 16. If approved by the council, the city could see its first food truck after Aug. 16, according to city attorney Ann Freeman. "The goal of this is to improve food access in underserved areas," said Councilor David Marshall. "I don't expect to see a huge number of these. It's going to be a challenging business to operate." That didn't allay the concerns of a restaurant owner and landlord who attended Thursday's meeting. Food trucks would make it more difficult for existing restaurants to survive, according to Brad Monarch, owner of Sebago Brewing Co. on Fore Street and Michael Mastronardi, the landlord at 164 Middle St., which houses the White Cap Grille. Monarch said traditional restaurants must sustain a local work force year-round, even though their profit margins shrink in the winter. Food trucks would be seasonal and add competition during the warmer months, he said. "We don't make money in the winter," Monarch said. "If you're not able to make money in the summer, you're not going to be able to support those (workers)." But several potential food truck vendors said their ventures would serve a different market than restaurants, which cater to people who want to relax over their meals. Food trucks appear to be increasing in popularity, a trend Portland got a taste of last weekend when the two finalists in the Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race" were filmed while competing in the Old Port. "It's the wave of the future," said Kelly Irwin of Falmouth, noting she would like to operate a food truck in Portland. A task force composed of restaurant owners, food truck vendors, councilors and downtown merchants first took up the issue of whether and where to allow food trucks to operate over the winter. Prior to endorsing the regulations, committee members proposed increasing the after-hours permitting fee in the original measure from $60 to $200. The committee held out the possibility of adding amendments when the matter goes before the council, including requiring overnight vendors to meet with police to discuss safety concerns. Marshall said he might suggest revisions to the fee schedule when it goes before the full council, suggesting that operators who have their trucks and equipment registered outside Portland should pay more to operate here. One food truck vendor said she spends $4,000 to operate in Cape Elizabeth, but Portland's daytime fee of $500 was chosen to recognize the daytime limitations, said Doug Fuss, owner of Bull Feeney's and a task force member. From 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the peninsula, food trucks would largely be restricted to the Bayside neighborhood, West Commercial Street, the Eastern Promenade, Park Avenue and near the Ocean Gateway terminal. They would have to be at least 65 feet from commercial restaurants and lodging establishments. The trucks would also be subject to city parking rules, which means they could stay in one location no longer than two hours. "We're trying to make them as successful as possible by reducing those fees because of those constraints," Fuss said. Off peninsula, food trucks would be allowed to operate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in several business and industrial zones, provided they are 200 feet from other food trucks or food establishments. Food trucks would only be allowed in city parks through a competitive bidding process. They would be prohibited from residential zones, school grounds and residential neighborhoods. In other business, City Manager Mark Rees said the city has narrowed its search for a new fire chief from 55 hopefuls to "four or five" candidates. Next Thursday, the candidates will meet with both a citizen and an employee panel, he said, and on Friday, they will be asked to explain how they would handle certain situations they might face on the job. Rees says he will then narrow the field to a couple finalists to interview. He told the panel he would like to have a chief nominated within a month. Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at: rbillings@mainetoday.com Twitter: @randybillings

Proposed foam ban task force may take up bags as well

Portland Daily Sun http://www.portlanddailysun.me/index.php/newsx/local-news/7086-proposed-foam-ban-lacks-scope-at-this-point-in-the-process Proposed foam ban task force may take up bags as well Written by Craig Lyons Given that a proposed ban on non-recyclable foam containers throughout Portland was just floated Monday night, exactly what products would be prohibited has yet to be defined. The City Council's Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee has been tasked with developing an ordinance that would ban the sale of non-recyclable polystyrene foam containers but given little other direction. Councilor David Marshall, who is the chairman of the committee, said the particulars of the ordinance will all be hashed out by members of the council, city staff and stakeholders. Marshall said he's going to propose that the committee set up a task force that would look at not only the issue around foam containers but also plastic bags. He said he's likely going to make the suggestion at Wednesday night's meeting. "We can work on it from there," he said. The task force would come up with recommendation about what regulations on foam containers and plastic bags should look like, said Marshall, and be made up of business people, manufacturers and other stakeholders that use these products. Marshall said it's important to have a conversation about what the city can to reduce the use of these products that are generating waste, clogging the water systems and having an effect on the environment. Ideally, the task force will develop some recommendations that reduce waste in the city, said Marshall, but in a way that minimally impacts businesses. Councilor Ed Suslovic introduced the idea of a Styrofoam ban and said he was partly inspired by the Portland School System's initiative to eliminate non-recyclable foam products. The Portland Public School System launched a recycling and composting initiative this year with the goal to completely separate out cafeteria waste by September 2012. The district aims to reduce trash by 50 to 80 percent, according to a press release, and save about $50,000 on trash hauling. Suslovic said, during Monday night's council meeting, that the initiative in the school system was the impetus for the possibility of banning the sale of non-recyclable foam food containers within the city. Suslovic said at one of the middle schools, the cafeteria went from producing 14 bags of trash to two because of the recycling and composting initiatives. Because the school system has seen fit to eliminate the foam containers, Suslovic said, he felt it's time the city consider doing the same. "That's the intent here," he said. Suslovic said he'd like to see Portland adopt a measure much like Freeport did. The town of Freeport enacted a ban on non-recyclable polystyrene foam containers in 1990. The town's ordinance prohibits retail vendors from serving or preparing food and not packaging meat, eggs, bakery products or other food in polystyrene containers. The ordinance further prevents retailers and vendors within the town from selling polystyrene food or beverage containers. For people who violated the ordinance, they faced a possible maximum fine of $200 for the first violation and a maximum fine of $500 for the second violation. "This is not a new phenomenon," said Richard Groton, president and CEO of the Maine Restaurant Association. He said it started on the West Coast and has gradually moved east. As the city prepares to start looking at the issue of foam containers, Groton said it's important that whatever regulations get developed are done in a logical way. He said it can be an emotional issue but that shouldn't tinge the ordinance development process. Groton said while Styrofoam containers are still being used and manufactured, the popularity of Styrofoam is waning. "[The industry] has been moving away from it pretty rapidly," he said. But even with other products on the market, Groton said, Styrofoam containers are still popular because they better insulate food. He said it's important to food vendors that their product is served at the right temperature, and other types of containers could jeopardize that. Groton said as regulations are being developed, the city needs to give enough notice to the people who rely on foam containers so they have time to prepare for a ban on the products. He said implementing any ordinance should be done in a way that doesn't put any undo burden on businesses and product manufacturers.

Should High and State streets become two-way roads?

Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com/news/should-high-and-state-streets-become-two-way-roads__2012-06-12.html June 12 Should High and State streets become two-way roads? City officials are considering a plan to make the streets two-way, as they were until the early 1970s. By Randy Billings rbillings@mainetoday.com Staff Writer PORTLAND — City officials are considering a proposal to convert High and State streets into two-way roads, to make them safer and more accommodating for pedestrians. The plan's goal is to slow traffic on two of the city's busiest arterials, especially traffic going between Interstate 295 and the Casco Bay Bridge. A similar proposal was floated in 2000, but the discussion focused more on eliminating the State Street extension through Deering Oaks -- a change that was opposed by the Maine Department of Transportation. About five years ago, the city's Peninsula Transit Study recommended two-way traffic on High and State streets, but the change wasn't made. Now, infrastructure improvements such as the Fore River Parkway and the new Veterans Memorial Bridge make the timing right to revisit the proposal, says City Councilor David Marshall, who chairs the council's Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee. He hopes to get buy-in from the Department of Transportation this time by keeping State Street extension as a two-way road. "I think it's worth a new set of eyes," Marshall said. "We're trying to look at the whole picture. Times are changing. There's more emphasis on safety and inviting pedestrians." Susan Waltz, who works at Mercy Hospital on State Street, said she crosses the street several times a day. She called the situation "a disaster waiting to happen" and said she is encouraged that the city is looking into the unsafe conditions. Public Services Director Michael Bobinsky said the city's staff will take the first step June 20 and present Marshall's committee with details of the study, which would examine project costs, traffic counts on High and State streets, intersection crash rates and computer traffic modeling. Bobinsky said the city needs updated traffic counts for High and State streets before it decides whether to move ahead with the proposal. The study, done mostly by city employees, also would examine the potential loss of on-street parking, the changes' effects on intersections in both Portland and South Portland, and potential infrastructure upgrades at major intersections. The committee would use the study this summer in considering its recommendation to the council, which would make the decision on the proposal. State and High streets were two-way until the early 1970s. In the late 1960s, the city hired Victor Gruen Associates to recommend ways to improve Portland's neighborhoods and downtown. Gruen, known as the father of modern shopping malls, believed in urban renewal and recommended that the city build a variety of interstates and arteries to better connect the downtown with outlying neighborhoods and communities. Although several of his recommendations were not accepted, several were, including: "Improve access to downtown by completely rebuilding Franklin Street and by converting a renovated High Street and State Street to a one-way pair." One local activist has long supported undoing Gruen's vision. "These are very negative changes to our life on the peninsula," said Anne Pringle, president of the Friends of Deering Oaks, noting that most of the buildings along High and State streets are homes. "I view (the proposal) as taking back our city from Victor Gruen's flawed vision, which is to move cars fast and in great volume." Bobinsky said the city would work with businesses, neighborhoods, schools, public transit officials, and state and regional planners, among others, throughout the study and the project, if it's done. "It's certainly a regional transportation link in and out of the city, so we need to be careful about what that means," he said. Bobinsky said the study also would look at potential "traffic diversion," as drivers seek alternative routes, including those through residential neighborhoods. Marshall said commuter traffic from I-295 to the Casco Bay Bridge could be diverted to West Commercial Street to the Fore River Parkway and the new Veterans Memorial Bridge, which is expected to open this summer. A state official said the Department of Transportation, whose approval would be needed, would approach the city's proposal cautiously. Steve Landry, the assistant state traffic engineer, said the department would have to see computer models showing new traffic flows and proposed upgrades at key intersections before signing off on any new traffic patterns. "Everything you do will have a reaction someplace else," Landry said. "We need to know what that reaction is." The city is also looking at other major thoroughfares, including Franklin and Spring streets, Marshall said. The City Council recently appointed a task force to recommend changes in conjunction with the renovation of the Cumberland County Civic Center on Spring Street. On Monday, business owners and residents were intrigued by the idea of making High and State streets two-way. Andres Verzosa and Yeshe Parks, who were eating lunch at Local Sprouts on Congress Street, were split about the plan. Verzosa, a Congress Street resident who owns Aucocisco Galleries in the Old Port, supported the idea. He wasn't sure if the plan would affect his business, but it would improve the feel of the downtown, he said. "Portland has become a place you like walking around," Verzosa said. Although Parks usually bikes into work from outer Washington Avenue to Standard Baking Co. on Commercial Street, he's not convinced that the two-way streets would solve Portland's traffic problem. They could actually make it worse, he said. "I think a left-hand turn could prove to be disastrous," Parks said. "You could go a whole light (cycle) and not be able to go." Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at: rbillings@mainetoday.com Twitter: @randybillings

Council endorses staggered election cycle

Portland Daily Sun http://www.portlanddailysun.me/index.php/newsx/local-news/6994-council-endorses-staggered-election-cycle Council endorses staggered election cycle Written by Craig Lyons A charter change that would modify the election cycle for two at-large seats on the City Council will go before the voters in November. The council Monday night approved the language for a change that is needed to stagger the election years for two seats that would allow voters to choose an at-large councilor every year. To meet that goal, one at-large seat will remain with a three-year term and another will become a four-year term for one cycle. While the charter change was up for discussion, some members of the council felt that more time was needed to look at the proposal. The charter change alters the term lengths for the at-large seats in order to stagger the elections so that at least one occurs each year. The idea behind the change is that Portland residents should have an opportunity each year to vote for at least one council position. In 2012, Portland voters would still vote for council seats for district one and two and an at-large seat. "I think that this is a good proposal," said Councilor David Marshall, who sits on the council's Legislative Committee that endorsed the charter change, and that there's value in people being able to vote for a councilor each election.
The charter change — as its proposed — would first impact the 2013 election.
 Aside from the District Three seat, voters would elect an at-large seat for a four-year term and another at-large seat for a three-year term.
 Once the change takes effect each subsequent year — with the exception of 2014 — will have an at-large seat up for election.
Without the change, some election years like 2014 and 2017 would only have district seats up for election and only voters within those wards can vote for the candidates during those years. In order to start the process of staggering the election, the change would make one of the at large seats elected for a four-year term. All the council seats with the exception for the mayor are elected for three-year terms. Councilor Kevin Donoghue said he supports the idea behind the change but thinks there needs to be a competitive process for the election. He said an option might be having the same goal of staggering the cycles accomplished by having a seat run for a one-year term then a three-year term. "The four-year term, to me, is not unreasonable," said Councilor Ed Suslovic. He said it would be a daunting task for someone to mount a campaign for a one-year term and then need to do it all over again a year later. When it came to the final vote, only one councilor went against the charter change. Councilor Nicholas Mavadones said he's not opposed to the idea of staggering the elections but does take issue with giving one seat a longer term. "I think it's more appropriate to keep the council terms to three years," he said.

New requirements passed for late-night entertainment

Portland Daily Sun http://www.portlanddailysun.me/index.php/newsx/local-news/6785-new-requirements-passed-for-late-night-entertainment New requirements passed for late-night entertainment Written by Craig Lyons Portland clubs that want to host late night events will have a new set of regulations to meet to obtain an entertainment license from the city. The City Council Monday night passed three amendments to the ordinance that regulates late night entertainment. The amendments require a review process for venues, limits the number of late-night events that can be held and creates a time frame for when an applicant must submit a request for a license. The proposed amendment adds three new criteria to the ordinance: The license will limit operations to 24 after-hour events per year; mandate that a written notice be given to the city clerk about an event at least seven days in advance; and An applicant for a license must meet with the police department for a review of the security plan and an on-site visit before the license is presented to the City Council. The existing regulations are: Operations under the after-hour entertainment license must end at 3 a.m. and attendance at events will be limited to people who are at least 21 years old if an establishment has a liquor license and limited to at least 18 years old for a venue without a liquor license. The amendment changes the exception provision of the ordinance as well. The exception says that any event that obtains a license for a single entertainment after 3 a.m. that is for a public purpose and may allow people under the age of 21 to attend. Any event that is permitted under that provision will not count toward to two-event limit for venues, according to the proposed language. The language that was passed Monday night was different from what was first brought to the council. One of the amendments sought to limit the ability to venues to get late-night entertainment license to only twice per month. The measure met opposition from some members of the council. Councilor John Anton spoke against the twice-per-month limit and said the cap wouldn't allow businesses to tailor their special events to opportunities as they present themselves. Councilor Cheryl Leeman said the twice-per-month limit presents a fairness issue since there are businesses that already have the license and won't be subject to the new regulations. She said it puts new license applicants at a competitive disadvantage in a very competitive market. "I can't support the requirement to limit it to two times a month," she said. Councilor David Marshall said businesses want to have flexibility when it comes to developing their schedule of programs and the two licenses per month limit would hamper their ability to do that. Anton put forth a motion to remove the limit on the number of licenses from the amendments entirely, though it failed to get the necessary votes. The council settled on the 24-license limit per calendar year as a compromise.

Improvements at Reiche seen as vital for Portland neighborhood

The Forecaster http://www.theforecaster.net/news/print/2012/04/24/improvements-reiche-seen-vital-portland-neighborho/120933 Improvements at Reiche seen as vital for Portland neighborhood Gillian Graham Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 9:10 am PORTLAND — When Judy Watson's daughters walk to Reiche Elementary School alone, their mother insists they take a long route that ensures they cross the street on well-marked crosswalks. When they all walk together, they take a direct route that is shorter, forcing them to step well into the street to look for traffic before crossing without a crosswalk. Watson would like to see that change with the addition of crosswalks and other measures to make sure pedestrians are safe as they move around the neighborhood. City Councilor David Marshall and city staff are collaborating with the Reiche Parent Teacher Organization and West End Neighborhood Association to respond to concerns like Watson's. They hope to improve access, enhance safety and better utilize space at the school and community center. Marshall will host a community forum at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Reiche Community Room, 166 Brackett St., to provide information and get feedback from residents about the city's five-year capital improvement plan and improvements around Reiche, which was built in the 1970s. "Reiche is in many ways the heart of the neighborhood. Whether it's the school or the community center, the building serves as a gathering place for our residents and provides a space for our community to connect with each other," Marshall said. He said the city's capital improvement plan calls for $3 million to be spent on Reiche improvements in 2016. Residents have concerns about pedestrian and traffic safety on the crowded streets around the school, and there are issues within the school that need to be addressed, he noted. Visitors to the community center pool during the day must walk through the school cafeteria. Additionally, office staff have a hard time monitoring the front entrance because of its configuration, and access to the second floor is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Marshall said. "It needs an investment in order to solve some of these design issues and improve safety and handicap accessibility," he said. "... The facility is really indispensable." The next step, Marshall said, is to use $60,000 to hire an architect to create drawings of possible renovation plans. He said he may ask that money be allocated from a fund set aside from the sale of Martin's Point for school improvements. Watson, co-chairman of the Reiche PTO, estimated about 150 of the school's 311 students walk to school and another 20 or so families drop off their children by car. The school uses one bus to transport students. Watson said pedestrian safety is an issue she brought to the attention of city officials at the beginning of the school year. She said she was surprised and appreciative of the city's quick response to make fixes where possible, as well as the commitment to look for solutions to long-term issues. Bruce Hyman, the city's bicycle and pedestrian program coordinator, said the city developed a short-term action plan to make the trip to and from school safer for students. City crews trimmed tree branches that were covering school zone lights and painted stop lines at intersections around the school to make them more visible. The city also upgraded crosswalks from a two-line style to a more visible black-and-white style resembling piano keys, Hyman said. "(Parents) felt there were some crosswalks needed leading to the entrances of the school," he said. "We've expedited the installation of a couple crosswalks and will install more." Hyman said the city will take a closer look at long-term traffic management and pedestrian safety in the area and is examining pending crosswalk requests. He said safety is a top concern in the area because of the narrow, busy streets and the high volume of students walking to school. "It's a pretty chaotic area out there in the morning and afternoon," he said. Watson said it is important neighborhood residents are involved in the process. "(The school) really is the center of this very vibrant neighborhood," she said. Gillian Graham can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or ggraham@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @grahamgillian.

Citizens United Amendment Grassroots Movement

Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/18/citizens-united-amendment-grassroots-movement_n_1435369.html WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday morning, dozens of activists and more than a dozen members of Congress gathered in a Capitol Visitor Center hearing room to show their support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. While the stage was set with speeches from congressional sponsors of a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 Supreme Court decision -- including remarks from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) -- the event focused on people across the country mobilizing in support of an amendment. "We have developing here a grassroots movement," Udall said. So far, 20 resolutions calling to overturn Citizens United, which freed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections, have been introduced in state legislatures, with measures passing in New Mexico and Hawaii. A number of cities and towns have passed similar resolutions. Representing those grassroots efforts, four individuals pushing for support of a constitutional amendment in their own communities spoke at Wednesday's event. David Marshall of Portland, Maine, noted that he had come to this issue thanks to his constituents. "It was the enthusiasm of my constituents that inspired me as a city councilor to sponsor a resolution urging the Congress to amend the Constitution to end corporate personhood and to overturn Citizens United," Marshall said. On Jan. 18, 2012, Portland passed just such a resolution. State Rep. Mimi Stewart described how the New Mexico legislature went from voting down an anti-Citizens United resolution in 2011 to voting for a similar resolution in 2012. "What is different?" she asked rhetorically. "The public is starting to get it. The public is behind it." She said people were "calling into legislators who would otherwise not vote for this to get them to understand that their constituents really wanted this." Activist Georgina Forbes explained how citizens worked to get 66 Vermont towns to adopt resolutions in favor of a constitutional amendment. "In my town of Norwich and in 65 other towns, hundreds of people like me stood at the dump, outside of the post office, in front of the general store and spoke with our neighbors and gathered names on petitions to get this article on the ballot," she said. State Sen. Jamie Raskin, who is pushing for a resolution in the Maryland legislature, paraphrased the late Justice Byron White's dissent in a 1978 Supreme Court case that granted corporations the right to certain political speech. "The state need not permit its own creation to consume and devour it," Raskin said. "And yet that's precisely what the Supreme Court did in the Citizens United decision." In addition to the three senators, at least 11 members of Congress were at the event: Democratic Reps. John Conyers (Mich.), Donna Edwards (Md.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), Rush Holt (N.J.), John Sarbanes (Md.), Betty Sutton (Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Ted Deutch (Fla.), Hank Johnson (Ga.), Peter Welch (Vt.), and David Cicilline (R.I.). The lawmakers used their time at the microphone to highlight their support for the people's efforts to overturn Citizens United. Schumer decried Citizens United, calling it "the worst decision since Plessy v. Ferguson," the infamous 1896 ruling that supported racial segregation with the doctrine of "separate but equal." "At the very deepest sense, we are fighting to make sure that America does not become an oligarchy where people with unlimited sums of money control the political process and the economic process," Sanders said. Udall put opposition to Citizens United and corporate personhood at the center of reform efforts. "All of the issues that you all love, that you care about -- whether it's tax fairness or whether it's making sure that the middle class grows -- all of those issues function around this issue. This is the core issue," he said. And Edwards argued, "The question is not whether we should amend the Constitution. The question is whether we are going to have the leadership in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate to reflect the will of the American people and return elections back to the people." Wednesday's event was also organized by a number of groups opposed to the Supreme Court ruling, including Public Citizen, Common Cause, People for the American Way, Move to Amend and Communications Workers of America. Since the Citizens United decision, there's been an explosion in political spending by independent groups, which are now allowed to accept unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and individuals. Independent group spending set a record in the midterm election year of 2010 -- midterm election years usually see lower spending than presidential election years -- and is on pace to shatter that record in the 2012 election cycle.

Portland seeks solution to messy university-area intersection

The Forecaster http://www.theforecaster.net/news/print/2012/04/17/portland-seeks-solutions-messy-university-area-int/120228 Portland seeks solutions to messy university-area intersection Andrew Cullen Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 10:50 am PORTLAND — City Councilor David Marshall says everyone agrees the six-way intersection of Brighton and Deering avenues and Falmouth Street near the University of Southern Maine is a mess. Portland officials are deciding what to do about the intersection of Deering and Brighton avenues and Falmouth Street, seen from the University of Maine School of Law. The intersection is a high-accident area and is inefficient for both pedestrians and motorists, city bicycle and pedestrian program coordinator Bruce Hyman said. Buy a Print But what can be done about it? Possibilities range from betters signs to slightly different traffic patterns to scrapping the existing design and creating a roundabout. The intersection connects a residential neighborhood with a major arterial, Brighton Avenue, and and a lesser arterial, Deering, and is just a few blocks from even busier Forest Avenue. It has heavy pedestrian use and automobile traffic. Pedestrians must cross one street at a time, hitting a crosswalk button for safe passage each time. Vehicles heading outbound on Brighton Avenue queue up about 100 feet from the traffic light. Those hoping to turn left onto Falmouth Street from Brighton are often left idling awkwardly in the middle of the intersection waiting for the stream of cars to pass in the opposite direction. "It takes a while for cars to clear through the intersection," said Marshall, who toured the area with Councilor Ed Suslovic in March. Both councilors are on the city's Transportation Committee. "The whole thing is just really inefficient," Marshall said. It's also dangerous. There have been 25 accidents over a three-year period, "which is a lot," said Bruce Hyman, the city's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. "But technically it's 17 percent higher than what you would expect at that intersection given the amount of traffic that goes through it." That's enough to gain the unwelcome Maine Department of Transportation designation as a "high-accident location." Bike lanes on Deering and Brighton are discontinuous, making the intersection a sort of no-man's land for cyclists, and the intersection is particularly inaccessible for those with disabilities, Hyman said. The problem has "just kind of developed over time, and now it's obviously outdated for the traffic load it carries, and it's time for us to reassess it," Marshall said. To that end, the city will hold its second public meeting on the issue at 6 p.m., Thursday, April 26, at 6 p.m. in room 102 of the USM Wishcamper Center on Bedford Street. Often, the city already has a plan in mind by the time it gets around to public meetings. In this case, while the a consulting team hired by the city to look at alternatives for the intersection will present its findings at the meeting, the city has no clear recommendation, Hyman said. Officials hope the public will vet the options before they devise their preferred plan of action. "All options are on the table for this," Hyman said. Solutions may be as simple as improved signs and more obvious lane assignments, he said. But the city is also considering the leg of Brighton Avenue between Falmouth and Bedford streets. That particular stretch is now an odd triangle, with Brighton veering off and Bedford continuing straight towards Deering Avenue as a one-way street. If the city pursued that option, it would reconfigure the end of Bedford Street as two ways. An even more drastic option that the city could pursue would create a roundabout at the intersection. The city owns enough property surrounding the intersection to be able to do so, Hyman said. "It's difficult to visualize a rotary in that intersection," University Neighborhood Organization President Carol Schiller said, in part because she is so used to the intersection as it is after 22 years living in the neighborhood. Less intensive alternatives like improved signs could be just as effective, Schiller said. "To me, a rotary, like having a big doughnut right there in the center, would make it even more impossible to cross," she said, adding that she would be open to the idea if engineers and city officials presented a plan for one that seemed workable. In a best-case scenario, the city would end Brighton Avenue at the intersection, allowing USM to create a more cohesive campus by building on what is now the stretch of Brighton between Falmouth and Bedford streets, Schiller said. Both the city and USM looked at possibilities as the university developed half a decade ago. USM even gave the city $250,000 for whatever is ultimately done to the intersection. "But we want to take a fresh look," Hyman said, especially because bike and pedestrian traffic are playing greater roles in the city's transportation plans. In addition to the USM funding, the city will likely look for significant federal funding, as it has with a proposed project at Woodford's Corner. The city's application for federal funds won't go through until 2014 because of the two-year grant cycle for those projects, Hyman said, meaning that even if approved, the money for the Brighton-Deering-Falmouth intersection project wouldn't be available until 2015. Andrew Cullen can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or at acullen@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @ACullenFore.

Quimby to sell another home based for artists

Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com/news/quimby-to-sell-another-home-base-for-artists_2012-04-05.html April 5 Quimby to sell another home base for artists As her colony project shifts to MECA, buildings with studios like 769 Congress St. are not needed. By Tom Bell tbell@mainetoday.com Staff Writer PORTLAND — After merging her Portland-based artists' colony project with the Maine College of Art last month, Roxanne Quimby is now selling 769 Congress St., the brownstone where the artists' residency program operated for less than two years. The 118-year-old building once housed the Roma Cafe Restaurant and the Bramhall Pub. Quimby bought it in November 2010 for just over $1 million. She hopes to find a buyer who can turn the building into a "landmark business" for the neighborhood, such as a sophisticated pub in the basement where the Bramhall Pub operated for 50 years, said Daniel O'Leary, chief executive officer of the Quimby Family Foundation. The buyer wouldn't necessarily be the highest bidder, O'Leary said. "It could be the lowest bidder with the best plan" for the building, he said. Since Quimby's foundation has owned the building, it has been used for art studios and a place to feed the artists. Nonprofits have used it as a banquet hall. The artists lived in an eight-unit apartment building at 727 Congress St., which was owned by Elliotsville Plantation Inc., a foundation affiliated with Quimby. That building was sold in December for $925,000 and is being converted into condominiums. The Maine College of Art doesn't need either building to launch its artists' residency program because it already owns studios and apartments, said Jessica Tomlinson, the college's spokeswoman. Quimby bought the apartment building at 727 Congress St. in June 2010, after abandoning plans to turn the Queen Anne Victorian at 660 Congress St. into an artists' residence. Quimby bought the building at 660 Congress St. in early 2009 for $350,000 but ran into problems, including a fire, preservation restrictions and the city's housing replacement ordinance, which required her to pay more than $400,000 in city fees to convert housing units to other uses. The City Council eventually granted a waiver for Quimby's "project of special merit." Interior work had begun in January 2010 when a homeless man, trying to keep warm but wary of being seen through a window, built a campfire in an interior room. Quimby eventually abandoned her artist-in-residence plan and put the building up for sale. A Freeport developer, Kenn Guimond, bought the building in December for $225,000. He plans to have apartments on the upper two floors and businesses on the ground floor, which includes two protruding storefront windows that were added in 1912 and a third, slightly lower window, added in 1950 to attract the gaze of automobile passengers. The city's Historic Preservation Board reviewed the plans Wednesday. In all, Quimby's art colony brought in 25 to 28 artists before the program ended late last year. In the beginning, Quimby brought in fine artists and craft makers. She later brought in textile artists and fashion designers, who seemed to benefit greatly from the collaborative environment of the colony, O'Leary said. He said Quimby concluded that she could take her idea to the next level by joining with the Maine College of Art. Last month, she gave MECA $400,000 to support artists in residence, new faculty positions, student recruitment, and equipment and resources to begin the program. It will focus on fashion and textiles, with an emphasis on design. The fashion-and-textiles program will begin in the fall with two classes, then expand to a minor study track and eventually a major. O'Leary said he believes that Portland can position itself as an attractive place for people in the fashion industry. He said Quimby's partnership with MECA creates a "synergy" that would allow for the best results with limited resources. City Councilor David Marshall, whose district includes the area, said the partnership is good news for the city, and the real estate deals will have a positive outcome for the neighborhood, particularly the development of the boarded-up building at 660 Congress St. "It looks like as though we are turning a corner," he said. Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at tbell@pressherald.com Twitter: TomBellPortland

Portland debates late-night entertainment guidelines

The Forecaster http://www.theforecaster.net/news/print/2012/03/20/portland-debates-late-night-entertainment-guidelin/117507 Portland debates late-night entertainment guidelines Andrew Cullen Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 11:20 am PORTLAND — The City Council granted a Congress Street music venue a license for late-night entertainment Monday, but the night club's request has sparked a review of city policy expected to play out in council and committee meetings for several weeks. Port City Music Hall applied for a license for after-hours entertainment with dancing in February. The license is not unprecedented; three other Portland businesses already had them, including the Styxx night club, Platinum Plus, and 51 Wharf. But police initially recommended that the City Council deny Port City's request, causing the council to delay a vote originally scheduled for March 5 to allow the venue operators to discuss the issue with the Police Department. At Monday's meeting, police dropped their opposition to the license request after discussing Port City's safety plan with club management. They said they are satisfied the plan will effectively mitigate threats to public safety. Police were initially concerned about the city granting new late-night entertainment licenses in general, not specifically to Port City, which has generated only a small number of police service calls since opening three years ago, police said. But despite their tacit support for Port City's license request in the end, they still oppose indiscriminate after-hours licensing. The bigger issue is public safety, said Cmdr. Vern Malloch, who was named assistant police chief on Monday. Police typically see a drop in calls between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. and reduce staff accordingly. But after-hours events last until 3 a.m., and can be a draw for rowdy crowds, challenging stripped-down night-shift crews. Malloch cited the Industry, Zoots, and Metropolis night clubs, all closed for years, as examples of late-night venues that caused problems for police. "What tends to happen at those establishments is they become magnets for people who are leaving another club, but aren't ready to go home yet," Malloch said. Intoxicated people gathered outside late-night entertainment venues can be dangerous to others. "We see fights. We see drinking," Malloch said. None of the the current license holders have presented such problems, Malloch said, in part because they are either away from the downtown bar area, as is the case with Platinum Plus, or because like Styxx, they use the license infrequently and only for ticketed, special events. Even with a motion to postpone the vote on Port City's application on the table at the March 5 meeting, councilors entered a long conversation on the subject and struggled to separate Port City's application from the larger policy issue. Most councilors supported the delayed vote to allow Port City to meet with police, but Councilor David Marshall, a strong supporter of the city's creative economy, protested. The council had always allowed late-night entertainment licenses, Marshall said. Nothing has changed, and this sort of delay was unusual without current proof from the police that a license holder or the applicant presented a public safety risk, he said. In between council meetings, the Public Safety, Health, and Human Services Committee took up the conversation at its March 15 meeting, debating changes to the after-hours license terms to recommend to the full council. At that meeting, Malloch proposed three changes: that applicants must meet with police to discuss safety plans and proposed uses, that license holders be limited to two late-night events a month, and that venues be required to notify the city clerk's office at least one week prior to an after-hours event. Marshall again opposed the measures. "We don’t have a problem here, we have the fear of a problem here,” he said. Port City manager Rob Evon and the owners of Styxx also appeared at the meeting to voice their discontent with the proposed changes. Evon said that while public safety is important and Port City plans to be cautious when using its after-hours license, he thinks "it is completely possible to run these types of events in a manner that treats the community with respect.” "Late-night entertainment is important to the city of Portland to put us on the map as a live music destination,” Evon said. But Bull Feeney's owner Doug Fuss also spoke, warning that Wharf Street is still a gathering place for boisterous drunks when bars close at 1 a.m. Portland Downtown District President Jan Beitzer also supported the police amendments. "Conceptually, (that this) wouldn’t be something that someone would do every weekend is important,” Beitzer said, arguing that Congress Street is more residential than it used to be. The committee voted 3-1 to recommend the proposed amendment to the full council, but specified that any venue holding or in the process of applying for an after-hours entertainment license as of March 15 would not be subject to the new regulations. Evon was thankful that his club will be grandfathered if the amendments are approved by the council. "I don't know what the fear is. We've done 550 to 600 concerts in three years and we've had maybe a handful of police calls each year," he said. "Personally, I'm opposed to telling adults what they can and can't do." The council will likely not vote on the amendments until its May 7 meeting, Public Safety committee member Ed Suslovic said. Andrew Cullen can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or acullen@theforecaster.net. Follow Andrew on Twitter: @ACullenFore.

Portland Seeks Ways to Cope with Rising Sea Levels

MPBN http://www.mpbn.net/Home/tabid/36/ctl/ViewItem/mid/3478/ItemId/20307/Default.aspx Portland Seeks Ways to Cope with Rising Sea Levels 02/15/2012 Reported By: Tom Porter Tonight the Portland City Council will take up an issue of significant importance to many Maine coastal communities: rising sea levels associated with global warming. Portland is now the tenth Maine community to look seriously at the problem. Councilors have invited Peter Slovinsky of the Maine Geological Survey to discuss the risks posed by sea level rise and storm surge. "Many people will say, 'Well it's not really an issue for today, it's an issue for tomorrow,'" says Peter Slovinsky of the Maine Geological Survey. Slovinsky says while the threat of sea level rise is higher in southern Maine, all coastal communities should take heed. His Portland study considers a range of scenarios over the next century, from a rise of one foot to as much as six feet. And he's trying to get people to think differently about the more imminent threat of storm surge, as opposed to the longer-term issue of sea level rise. "One of the key phrases that I like to use is that we're planning for today's storms and tomorrow's tides," Slovinsky says. "Because today's storms--if we have a high tide plus a foot of surge, we can have flooding in downtown Portland and also in the Back Cove area." And the impact of flooding in the Back Cove area of Maine's largest city is of particular interest to Sam Merrill (above), associate research professor at the Muskie School of Public Service, and director of the New England Environmental Finance Center. At a public meeting next week, Merrill will present an analysis of the financial impacts of flooding in the Back Cove area, which is home to a number of businesses, including MPBN's radio news studios. "We're looking at the costs of inaction," Merrill says. His own projections also consider a range of scenarios. He finds even using fairly moderate predictions for sea level rise and storm surge, several hundred million dollars worth of damage is likely to be done to private property in the Bayside area. Merrill estimates that an investment in the short-term of around $100 million could save the city $400 million by 2050. At the moment, he says, Portland is not ready. Take for example the unusually high "king tide" that hit last October. "A lot of east Bayside was quite wet and under several inches of water. And the same over on Commercial Street," he says. "And that was just a high tide event, without storm surge." "It's time for us to start planning for our future, and plan our infrastructure investments and our zoning to accommodate those changes," says David Marshall, who chairs the city's Transportation Sustainability and Energy Committee, which is spearheading Portland's flood-readiness efforts. Marshall says a tightening of the building code is one possible response, as it has been in some coastal European cities. "In Hamburg, Germany, there's a requirement that in the waterfront area that the first floor be constructed 6 to 12 feet above sea level," he says. Some businesses are clearly already factoring in the flood risk. Marshall points out that the new Whole Foods retail outlet, which opened in Bayside five years ago, was built a few feet above the flood line. Local landlords also seem aware of the threat. "We think about it a lot," says Peter Quesada, vice-president of Fore River Management, whose properties include the building that's home to the MPBN Portland studios. "When we're looking at renovating existing buildings or building a new one, one of the things that we definitely are thinking about is getting the floor level of that building as high as we can, while also making it low enough to meet the handicap access requirements," Quesada says. Some business-owners, however, admit they're not taking the issue of storm surge and sea level rise as seriously as they might. Steve Konstantino owns Maine Green Building Supply, just a few blocks down from MPBN. "I haven't worried too much so far," he says. "I guess I have enough business worries already to keep moving, and I really have no idea how I would plan for a flood." Tom Porter: "You kind of put it to the back of your mind when you hear about it?" Steve Konstantino: "Yes."

Federal concern brought to council

Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com/news/federal-concern-brought-to-council_2012-01-13.html January 13 Federal concern brought to council City officials are being asked to debate a resolution against unlimited corporate spending on political ads. By Tom Bell tbell@mainetoday.com Staff Writer PORTLAND - The City Council will debate a resolution Wednesday that calls on Maine's congressional delegation to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing "Corporate Personhood." The resolution, submitted by Councilor David Marshall and co-sponsored by councilors John Anton and Kevin Donoghue and Mayor Michael Brennan, is expected to draw a crowd of people who are eager to testify in support, including members of the League of Young Voters and the Occupy Maine movement. But Councilor Cheryl Leeman says the council shouldn't waste its time debating federal issues over which it has no control. "This has no place on the agenda," she said. "This takes away from our focus, which is the business at hand, which is the city business. That is what we were elected to pay attention to." Anton said he has no objection to discussing federal issues in the council chamber. "Decisions made at the federal level have a very real impact on the lives of people in Portland," he said. Marshall said the Occupy Wall Street movement and its local version, Occupy Maine, inspired him to submit the resolution. One of the movement's core grievances is that the United States has a political system open to corruption, with representative democracy taken over by corporate and special interests. Marshall said the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Citizens United has allowed corporations to spend unlimited funds on political advertising. In the 5-4 ruling, which gave corporations and unions freedom to spend as much as they want to support or attack candidates, the court said corporations have the same First Amendment rights as people. The ruling struck down a key portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which passed in 2002. Maine lawmakers are now exploring ways to change the Maine Clean Election Act to comply with the ruling. One option is to eliminate matching money for publicly financed candidates who are outspent by privately financed opponents. While U.S. courts are allowing corporations to spend unlimited money on political ads, they are rejecting people's right to peaceful assembly, said Marshall. He cited recent court rulings allowing cities to evict Occupy encampments. The city of Portland is now arguing in court that Occupy Maine's encampment in Lincoln Park should be shut down because it does not have First Amendment protection. Marshall said the City Council is a legitimate forum for discussion of the issue, and that similar resolutions have been passed by several cities, including Los Angeles, New York City and Oakland, Calif. Independent political action groups that claim to be educational, so-called super PACs, are now spending huge amounts of money in the Republican presidential primary to fund attack ads, Brennan said, and no one knows who is paying for the ads. "There is no accountability, no ability for voters to understand where the money is coming from and who is paying for the ads they are putting out," he said. Will Gattis, 24, of Falmouth, a supporter of the League of Young Voters, said the idea for the resolution developed last month after a dozen league supporters met to discuss the issue. Although the nation's founders created a government with multiple levels, he said, it is still one government, and a city council is in a position to tell higher levels of government what the people want. Stephen Demetrious, 56, an Occupy Maine supporter, said local governments are closest to the people and are able to express the people's will to other political bodies that are less democratic. "The Citizens United decision was a devastating decision, and people in high and low places think that," he said. Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: tbell@mainetoday.com Twitter: TomBellPortland

Portland mayoral candidates spent as much as $40 per vote

The Forecaster http://www.theforecaster.net/content/p-portland-mayor-finance-reports-010411 Portland mayoral candidates spent as much as $40 per vote Randy Billings Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 11:20 am Palm Pilots, umbrellas, consultants among campaign expenses PORTLAND — The 15 candidates who hoped to become Portland's first elected mayor since 1923 spent more than $300,000 on their campaigns. Some candidates dug deeper than others to get first-place votes in the opening round of the instant-runoff election, but who spent the most per vote ($40) – and the least ($2.86) – may come as a surprise. According to 42-day post-election reports filed Dec. 20, Ethan Strimling raised and spend more money than his nearest competitor (and eventual winner) Michael Brennan – by more than $30,000. Strimling's campaign raised $90,000, and $7,000 came between the Oct. 26-Dec. 13, 2011 period covered by the report. But the $20.42 that Strimling spent for each of his 4,390 first-round votes is only half of what 11th-place finisher Ralph Carmona spent. Carmona raised $14,150, mostly from out-of-state supporters, and spent about $12,800. But he only received 317 first-place votes, which means he spent about $40.38 per vote. Brennan spent $11.25 for each of his 5,240 first-round votes. He raised $41,000 through Oct. 25, and saw a big bump in fundraising in the closing days of the campaign, raising about $18,500 from Oct. 26 to Dec. 13. City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones also saw an uptick in fundraising from Oct. 26 to Dec. 13. After raising $46,000 through Oct. 25, Mavodones raised an additional $10,300 in the closing days of the campaign. Mavodones received 1,516 first-place votes in the opening round and finished third. He spent $18.98 per vote. The most frugal candidate was John Eder, a former state representative, who raised and spent only $775 – the least of any candidate. Eder's 271 first-place votes in the opening round only cost about $2.86, but he came in 12th. Richard Dodge wasn't too far behind Eder's per-vote total. Dodge, who raised $2,235, received 670 first-place votes in the opening round, which works out to only $3.30 a vote. City Councilor David Marshall, meanwhile, was the most frugal of the top-tier candidates. The fourth-place finisher raised $14,400, and spent all but $15 of that. Marshall received 1,516 first-place votes in the opening round, and spend $9.49 per vote. Fifth-place finisher Jed Rathband's campaign raised $30,300, including $2,800 in the final days of the campaign. He was the only candidate to have an independent PAC formed to support him. The Portland Committee for Econmic Development spent $11,200, according to its 11-day pre-election report. Election Administrator Bud Philbrick said the city is still waiting for the group's 42-day report. Also missing is information from Elizabeth Holton, who was re-elected to the School Board. Holton as of last week had not filed either an 11-day pre-election report or the 42-day post-election report. Philbrick said Holton plans to file for an exemption, because she didn't raise or spend any money. Failure to do so could result in fines. In the mayor's race, City Councilor Jill Duson more than doubled her fundraising in the final days of the campaign. Duson raised about $5,000 before the election, but raised $5,700 in the closing days. Duson's fundraising ace in the hole? Her godson, Michael Odokara-Okigbo, a lead performer for the Dartmouth Aires, the a capella group that finished second on NBC's nationally televised "The Sing Off." Odokara-Okigbo performed a fundraising concert for Duson on Oct. 29 at Portland High School. That concert grossed more than $4,700, although Duson had to pay $475 to rent the auditorium. Her per-vote cost was $12.26. With all this talk about money some candidates raised, there was one candidate who didn't raise a single penny: Peter Bryant. But that didn't stop the 10th-place finisher from spending $5,075, which works out to $13.82 for each of his 367 first place votes in the opening round. Per vote costs for other candidates were $11.46 for Markos Miller, $10.14 for Christopher Vail, $5.32 for Charles Bragdon, $19.19 for Hamza Haadoow and $25.50 for Jodie Lapchick. Consulting costs Four of the top six finishers hired political consultants – in some cases, at a heavy price. Mavodones shelled out $29,000 to get advice from Mach3Media, while Strimling paid Baldacci Communications nearly $20,400 for its expertise. Each candidate paid an additional $14,200 and $8,800 in salaries, respectively. Duson used more than $5,800 in consulting services from 19 Oaks in South Portland. Her reports indicate she still owes the firm more than $2,000. Rathband, meanwhile, received consulting services from a few individuals, which cost him more than $3,800. Neither Brennan nor Marshall hired consultants, but did pay their campaign staffs $7,500 and $7,000, respectively. Getting the word out Brennan may have been the only candidate to run television commercials, spending nearly $11,000 for ads on two stations. But Rathband took his message to the big screen. His reports indicate a $356 ad payment to Patriot Cinemas, which operates the Nickelodeon. He also ran radio ads, which were funded by an independent PAC. Brennan and Strimling spent the most on direct mailings, $33,300 and $29,000, respectively, while Rathband spent more than $2,300 on mailings. Strimling was the only candidate to spend money for polling – about $3,700. He also spent more than $15,000 on campaign literature, besting Rathband's $11,300 and Brennan's $7,300. Mavodones spent about $5,000 on campaign literature, while Marshall spent nearly $4,000. Duson only spent $1,780 on literature, but she was the only candidate to buy campaign buttons. Marshall, meanwhile, also made some unique campaign purchases: $235 for Palm Pilots, $20 on umbrellas, and $25 on flashlights. Rathband, meanwhile, made a $333 donation to the Root Cellar, a Christian charity that works with inner-city youth in Portland and Lewiston, to close out his campaign account.

OccupyMaine goes to Court to Block Portland Eviction

MPBN http://www.mpbn.net/Home/tabid/36/ctl/ViewItem/mid/3478/ItemId/19455/Default.aspx OccupyMaine goes to Court to Block Portland Eviction 12/19/2011 Reported By: Josie Huang As Occupy movements elsewhere get evicted, OccupyMaine has bought itself at least a few more weeks to keep its encampment in Portland. OccupyMaine members filed a lawsuit today to stop City Hall from dismantling their tent community at Lincoln Park, and officials have agreed not to take any action pending a court decision. Related Media OccupyMaine goes to Court to Block Portland Evicti Duration: 4:25 The group's lawyer John Branson (right) says that the city violated protesters' constitutional rights on several counts, including the enforcement of a ban on overnight assembly and speech in a public park. "What these brave folks are doing during the coldest months of the year are seeking to remain, and continue to draw the public's attention to issues that are important to the very survival of our democracy and our way of life," Branson said at a news conference today. Palma Ryan (right in photo below, with fellow plaintiff Frederick Deese Hamilton) is one of four Occupy campers named in the suit, along with the larger OccupyMaine group. She says it was important to lend her name to the suit. "Regaining our democracy, our ability to rule our own government, separate from corporations and corporate rule--to me it was the most important action of this era," she says. The city has 21 days to respond to the lawsuit, which was filed in Cumberland County Superior Court, after which Occupy Maine has seven days to answer the city's response. City spokeswoman Nicole Clegg did not have any comment on the lawsuit pending its review by corporation counsel, but indicated that the city would not issue a legal response until after the New Year. "It's a lengthy document with more than 100 pages, so it's going to take us some time--and with the holidays--to file a response," Clegg says. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, which filed a brief Monday on behalf of Occupy Maine, agrees with Branson's to fight for protesters' rights under both the state and federal constitutions. "Now the Maine courts have a chance to look at this from the Maine constitution's perspective," says Zach Heiden, the ACLU of Maine. Heiden says other Occupy movements, including the camp in Augusta, have made unsuccessful bids to keep their encampments by focusing on the U.S. Constitution. He says he's not surprised. "For one thing, the federal Constitution's protection of freedom of expression is worded in a negative way: 'Congress shall make no law...,'" he says. "The Maine Constitution has an affirmative grant that says people have the right to speak. We think that's an important distinction." Lawyers for Occupy Boston unsuccessfully argued for its group's rights under the Massachusetts Constitution, as well as the U.S. Constitution, but Heiden maintains that Maine's freedom of expression clause is stronger. The City Council had denied OccupyMaine's petition to seek a permit to stay in Lincoln Park in a vote earlier this month. But officials have continued working with protesters, so the lawsuit filed on Monday was not a surprise to the city, says city spokeswoman Clegg. "We've been trying to maintain an open line of communication," she says. "We've been very forthright and upfront about our actions and thought process. They've been responsive in the same manner." In the meantime, Portland's first publicly-elected mayor, Michael Brennan, says that he wants to set up a task force to address grievances aired by OccupyMaine and develop long-term solutions "to look at issues of income distribution, whether or not we should have a 24-hour free-speech zone, are there ways that we can help some of the people who are there find more permanent housing, the city's investment policy." Brennan's talking about OccupyMaine's demand that the city transfer its funds from TD Bank to a locally-owned bank or credit union. "There's no reason why we shouldn't have a periodic review of where our money's going, and what banks we're using and to see if there is something that we can do that is a little bit better," Brennan says. "The caveat to that: Obviously, we wouldn't want to do anything that would disadvantage Portland taxpayers." Occupy members say they are willing to work with the mayor, whom they group, along with City Councilor David Marshall, as the only elected officials showing any support for protesters. Plaintiff Palma Ryan also credited the police with treating protesters well. That's why Ryan, who works as an energy auditor, says that if the court rules against protesters, she will not try to camp overnight anymore. "I have too much respect for the city of Portland and this police force and this treatment of us to create something that would seem disrepectful to them, because they have been very respectful of us." The OccupyMaine lawyer says it's not clear what legal step the group would take if the courts reject their claims, but that the decision to stay at Lincoln Park will be up to individual protesters. Photos by Josie Huang.

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