Just when you think a Peace Agreement has been reached between the threatened Portland City Council and the progressive thinking Mayor Ethan Strimling – well, think again!
Mayor Strimling has just announced a new slate of councilors to each of the council’s seven standing committees in a renewed effort to resolve the impasse reached between them – the on-going conflict surfacing at the most recent city council meeting when the council unanimously opposed the Mayor’s proposed appointments to the Committee, as he is obligated to do by the City’s charter.
At issue for Councilors is the Mayor’s appointment of himself as Chair of the Finance Committee previously – an appointment that his new slate also includes. “According to our city charter, the Mayor must be ‘actively’ involved in the preparation, passage and promotion of all budgets brought before the Council. These budgets reflect our values most directly and include millions of dollars for school maintenance, roads and infrastructure. Tens of millions for social services, police, fire and shelters. And over a hundred million for our schools,” wrote the Mayor in a press release issued late this afternoon.
“Prime goals for this year include universal pre-k, affordable housing, targeted tax relief and fully enforcing our expected ban on pesticides. As the only full time member of the Council, I will be able to work with the city manager, Council and School Board to fund both the basic needs of our residents and expand opportunities for everyone.” Strimling’s comments ended. City councilors have stated they will not accept the Mayor as Chair of the Finance Committee.
There is nothing in the charter that precludes the Mayor from serving as chair of one of the standing committees.
Proposed chairs for the City’s Standing Committees are as follows:Economic Development, Justin Costa; Finance, Ethan Strimling; H&HS & Public Safety, Belinda Raw; Housing, Jill Duson; Legislative & Nominating, Pious Ali; Rules & Reports, “Media” Mavadones and Sustainability & Transportation, Spencer Thibodeau.
Proposed committee members for the above list of committees are as follows:: Economic Development, Ethan Strimling and newcomer Kim Cook; Finance, “Media” Mavadones and Jill Duson; HHS & Public Safety, Brian Batson and Ethan Strimling; Housing, Justin Costa and Spencer Thibodeau; Legislative & Nominating, Jill Duson and Kimberly Cook; Rules & Reports, Pious Ali and Brian Batson.
The Mayor has proposed an alternate slate that makes him a member of the Finance Committee and Chair of the HHS Committee.
In 2010, voters adopted a new charter. It provided for a popularly elected Mayor – the first in more than 80 years; a Mayor who can set policy to be implemented by the city manager. Since then, power struggles with the popularly elected Mayor have erupted consistently. Mayor Michael Brennan, the predecessor to Mayor Strimling and the first popularly elected Mayor under the charter, underwent scathing criticism from the council for his perceived control over the agenda. That was one reason why the Council, led by Nick “Media” Mavadones turned on Brennan and supported Strimling. Media Mavadones supported Strimling in a “the sky is falling in chicken little” attack on Brennan and in favor of Strimling. Even”The Portland Press Herald” in a surprise move, supported Strimling over Brennan, although the newspaper had been a consistent supporter of Brennan’s on its editorial page during his Mayoral tenure. Now the daily newspaper appears to have backtracked its support of Mayor Strimling – as it did for Mayor Brennan. Mayor Strimling has progressive ideas that the Council is concerned might become popular among voters – its in the best interests of the conservative council not to allow these ideas to see daylight.
Even conservative Councilor Jill Duson was visibly annoyed at Mayor Brennan when he did not follow her example and say to newly licensed restaurants: “Thank you for doing business in Portland.” A slogan that Mayor Strimling has since adopted at city council meetings. But that doesn’t seem to have improved Duson’s view of the Mayor. She has announced that she is running for Mark Dion’s state legislature seat in 2018. Dion is running for the position of Governor in 2018.