The City Council voted this evening to eliminate the position of special assistant to Mayor Ethan Strimling by a vote of 6 – 3; the two councilors voting against an amendment proposal initiated by District 1 City Councilor Belinda Rae to eliminate the post were Brian Bateson and Pious Ali. This despite the Mayor’s emotional plea to save his assistant’s post because he repeatedly stated that he has been key in many initiatives and will be in the future.
Part of Rae’s justification for the elimination of this roughly $70,000.00 plus benefit expense from the $345M budget was that she had never sought the assistance the Mr. Shedlock. Perhaps that is so, but he was credited with reaching out to her constituents when she does not. In fact, Rae is poor at responding to emails from her constituents.
Although conservative members of the council tried mightily to cloathe their rejection of this position in a non-political light, that rationale did not pass the laugh test. Clearly the Mayor was being punished for his progressive agenda that runs counter to the conservative members of the Council. Councilor Rae, who can be nasty and petty when views run counter to hers, initiated the action to punish the Mayor for his errant views and cripple him by taking away his assistant. Judging by the animosity of city hall staffers toward the Mayor that mhn.com has spoken with, his chances of getting any assistance is non-existent. Mike Murray, a 13 year veteran of city hall who works as a neighborhood liaison and was the gatekeeper to the former Mayor Michael Brennan has been especially outspoken in his disdain for Mayor Strimling. It’s clear that he would not be interested in assisting Mayor Strimling in any way.
Perhaps what the Mayor did not know until now is that the Portland City Council has a reputation for being revengeful and mean-spirited.
District 2 city councilor Spencer Thibedeau, a real estate attorney, frustrated with the Mayor scolded him in a surprising tone toward the end of the discussion: “It’s all about me. It should be about us,” Earlier in the evening, Thibedeau told the Mayor: “You are on an island by yourself. You are isolated.” The Mayor, sometimes called arrogant by detractors, persisted throughout the evening that he was simply promoting public policy that city voters wanted him to pursue and was spelled out in the charter. Thibedeau said the position is “collaborative” – something the Mayor has not been with the city council. Rather the Mayor has “marched to his own drummer” – something that is intolerable in Portland city politics.
Long-time councilor Nick Mavadones asked: “Why would this be political. We are all Democrats.” Mavadones supported the election of Mayor Strimling to this position over the incumbent Mayor Michael Brennan with a blistering – “the sky is falling – chicken little” speech in which he blamed Brennan for mostly imagined problems. Councilor Jill Duson supported his imagined problems and preference for Mayor Strimling at the same event. (“Civility” could start with the City Council at political rallies, Councilor Mavadones.)
Jason Shedlock who spoke on his own behalf eloquently said: “This is like watching my own funeral.”
The posting of this position was first published herein on January 12, 2016 – “Figurehead Mayor Getting Special Assistant. The “Portland Press Herald,” mouth piece for city hall, much later followed with a similar story.