An organizational meeting of the Charter Commission will be held on Monday, June 28, 2021 at 6:00 pm. The meeting will be conducted remotely via Zoom. Agenda materials and remote access instructions can be found by visiting www.portlandmaine.gov/agendas.
During this meeting the Commissioners will receive an overview of the various rules and procedures, establish a future schedule of meetings, and elect a Chair, Vice-chair and Secretary. They will also schedule an initial public hearing which under Maine law must be held within 30 days of their organizational meeting. The public hearing will be an opportunity for the public to share their ideas on the areas in which they believe the Commissioners should explore according to a press release issued by the city’s spokeswoman today.
It appears that the Charter Commission is composed of Commissioners with a progressive agenda. That is significantly so since former conservative city councilor Cheryl Leeman and conservative restaurant owner Steve DiMillo did not win seats at the table. Leeman once served on former Republican Senator Olympia Snow’s staff.
One motive for a review of the Charter came from the very public struggle for power between city manager Jon Jennings and former Mayor Ethan Strimling. At one point, Jennings said that he had considered resigning from his post rather than continue to battle Strimling. That would not have been out of character for Jennings. Before assuming his short stay as assistant city manager in South Portland, Jennings was enthusiastic about his partnership in the development of Thompson’s Point with business partner Chris Thompson. He opted out he once told this blogger because the development was not proceeding in the direction he wanted. Apparently, the big, big bucks weren’t there. So, he sold his share to a friend of his he told this blogger. Jennings has said he will leave his city hall post next summer.
Prior to the Jennings era, Mark Rees served briefly as city manager. He was hired from a similar position in North Andover, Massachusetts. Rees was sandwiched in between two strong city managers. His immediate predecessor was Joe E. Gray, Jr. who served the city of Portland for forty years. He served as a strong city manager for ten years. Before that Bob Ganley was city manager until his sudden death.
One objection to the tenure of Jennings as city manager is that he makes policy and is not accountable at the polls. Many have told mhn.com in the past that Jennings is a good boss; it does make one wonder when city hall will be reopened to the public, however.
Mayor Ethan Strimling was a strong mayor for Portland just prior to the current mayor. He had strong opinions on various subjects and didn’t shy away from making them public and working to make them city ordinances. That is in contrast to the current Mayor Kate of Portland. She has squandered her leadership opportunities over and over again – failing to define herself and her values – rather than just another pretty face at city hall. Maybe she has failed to tell the public who she is because she doesn’t know herself.
Please visit post herein dated May 15, 2017 for more background information on the dispute between Jennings and Strimling.