East Enders Grill City Officials at Annual District Meeting

District 1 City Councilor Belinda Ray

District 1 City Councilor Belinda Ray Said that Communicating with Constituents is the Most Challenging Part of her Position.

Councilor David Brennerman, Chair of the Economic Development Committee

Councilor David Brennerman, Chair of the Economic Development Committee Who is Also Anti-Environmental.

Former District ! City Councilor Kevin Donoghue Criticizes the Housing Committee.

Former District 1 City Councilor Kevin Donoghue Criticizes the Housing Committee’s Efficiency To Date.

(Post # 2,630)

About fifty (50) residents of the East End attended the annual district meeting armed with questions for city officials whose answers often fell short  – making it clear that some were not ready for the many blunt questions posed to them at East End Community School on Munjoy Hill this evening.

A vote on a moratorium on construction next to Fort Sumner Park on North Street will be taken on Monday, November 21, 2016.  The moratorium will extend to February 6,2017 and it is believed there are enough Council votes for it to pass.  The developer has not filed ;papers with the City Councilor Belinda Ray said.

The issue of the famously slow permitting process was brought up again.  It’s a problem that has dogged the city for many, many years.  A new office was recently created to try once and for all to correct the mess there, with Mike Russell directing it. Within the last few days a new “fast track” system has been established to streamline the process for minor projects.  During Mayor Michael Brennan’s tenure, the first “fast track” system  was set up, but it turned out to be a “slow- fast- track, ” emphasized Russell.  He said he’s also hiring more people for his office.

Voters watched Figurehead Strimling battle with Mayor Brennan during the last Mayoral race in which the Figurehead won. Strimling branded himself as the “listener in chief.”  “But you were more like an “Emperor-in-Chief,”   Derek Campbell told Strimling.  “You hired an expensive assistant and then spent thousands redoing an office at city hall for yourself.  (The exact cost was never released, despite requests from mhn.com)  Mayor Brennan did all his work himself.  Why we need three well paid administrators is beyond my comprehension,” Campbell told Strimling – to which Strimling responded he needs an assistant to assist in developing policy. The well-known split between Strimling and the city manager was evident as Strimling was pretty much left out of the conversation by Ray who has publicly been critical of the Figurehead for his lack of leadership. Ray and the city manager have a warm relationship.

Alicia Harding reported several concerning exchanges with Portland Police employees. She asked:  “What is our relationship with the Police Department?  I felt blown off by the Police Department,” she said   Police Chief Michael Sauschuck responded that Portland is not a sanctuary city as Governor Paul LePage has called it in the past and was recently implied in a “Bangor Daily News” article.  The article implied that Portland would cooperate with The Donald Elect in his efforts to purge the nation of immigrants.

Several commented on the lack of efficiency and effectiveness of the city’s Housing Committee, chaired by Councilor Jill Duson.  Former City Councilor for District 1, Kevin Donoghue said;”  It’s amazing how little has been done on housing in such a long time.” Ken Thomas added that the only housing problem in Portland is the lack of affordable housing.  “One apartment is converted to a condominium every day,” he said.  Councilor Ray is a member of the Housing Committee that convened  many months ago. Tica Douglas said the city has ‘abdicated its responsibility to preserve Portland’s character by permitting a 19th century home to be demolished and replaced by a high-end condominium.  (The demolition of the building Douglas referred to was at the corner of Fore and Waterville Streets and was demolished earlier this month)

Andy Glassberg, of the Eastern Promenade said he was dissatisfied with the Portland Water District’s failure to monitor the quality of the air as other municipalities do.  He also expressed concern about the intersection of Fox and Walnut Streets and Washington Avenue.  “The city needs to consider what’s coming because of the coming developments,” he said. “Some shoppers go to Falmouth to avoid that intersection,” he said.

“TIF’s should not be for private entrepreneurs,” Will Watman told Greg Mitchell, Director of the Economic Development Office and Councilor David Brennerman, Chairman of the Economic Development Committee who were both in attendance. “Over $300 M dollars in TIF’s has accumulated over the years.  Our tax money goes to TIF’s.  the anti-environmentalist  Brennerman said the only incentive we have to encourage companies to invest here is the TIF.  “We get the development done.”

“If a bio-technology company needs capital, there’s Wall Street.  And if they won’t fund them why should we?” asked Watman.

The rest of the annual district meeting was the interesting part!