by Jenny Anastasoff
ELECTION 2015, THE PHOENIX OF FAMILIAR FACES
Good day again, West End News readers. In our last issue, we mused about the closing of Videoport, and the cultural shifts happening in our dear city. With the arrival of autumn, and familiar campaign signs popping up, we’ve begun yet another time of transition – or not? Please know, this is an opinion piece, from a constituent, local newshound, and occasional activist. I did not seek out candidates for soundbites.
Four years ago we had an exciting, entertaining mayoral election with fifteen candidates. So far, this cycle has been a giant yawn, with three familiar names vying for mayor, and no women in the race. An incumbent, a Green, and a TV pundit walk into Ruski’s… which one knows the name of the bartender?
Perhaps, when we went through all that strife to create the elected mayor position, we hoped for a savior. An elected figurehead, properly compensated, would get things done, inspire the city. From the seismic rumbles at City Hall, it seems we didn’t quite get what we bargained for… the dynamics are far more complicated.
Speaking of rumbling, I am feeling a deficit in leadership, beyond the city. An ideological shift where brash blowhards have bullied their way to high levels of power, leaving us to vent in the trenches. Not showing us how to reach out and build relationships to move forward – we’re just yelling at each other.
We need mentors to teach us how to serve our communities, our neighbors. Here in downtown Portland, we recently lost a quiet leader in Paul Trusiani, who set a good life example of community dedication through hard work.
For the District 2 City Council seat that serves the West End, we also have three men running. If I am reading the City Clerk’s election chart correctly, there are 7 women of 23 names in contention throughout all the races, around thirty percent. Women are running for the School Board, and a few in District 1, and one on Peaks.
This is not the world I imagined as a participant at Dirigo Girls State thirty years ago. Back then, hundreds of Maine high school girls ran for mock office, learning about government and leadership. To my fellow Girls Staters, where are we now? How are we serving?
As for the guys, at the Threads of Hope thrift store last week I found a well-worn ‘Wells Lyons for City Council’ t-shirt for sale. I held it up, confused. How could a current campaign shirt already be recycled? Oh, that’s right, Lyons ran in 2012 for an at-large seat. Such an emblem of Portland politics! I could just as easily have found a Strimling or Brennan for Mayor shirt. Resurgam, the phoenix shall rise again!
THE HOT ISSUES: CRIME, DRUGS, AND ANCILLARY AGGRESSIONS
West Enders, election hot button topics are our realities: crime, drugs, and homelessness. After the September WENA meeting, I evaded a likely mugging near Longfellow Square. As I was writing this column, the police issued a press release about 3 neighborhood robbery attempts this last week, all women attacked after dark.
Anecdotally, I’m hearing of elevated aggression on our sidewalks, of women feeling vulnerable. Cat-calling, stalking, groping, being followed, harassed, propositioned; in daylight, dusk, and dark; alone or in pairs. Whether these unwelcome encounters translate to increased perpetrated crimes, we’ll have to wait for the city stats.
Safety protocols are still wise choices, and the Portland Police partner with the Amy St. Laurent Foundation to offer Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) training. It costs $25. Register by November 4th for R.A.D. classes on November 10, 12, 17, 19 (6-9 p.m.) and 21 (8 a.m.-12 p.m.), at the Portland Police Department, 109 Middle Street or email email@example.com.
My crime-fighting advocacy would be to increase police presence on the Longfellow Square/Congress Street corridor. There are a few citizens raising awareness, but we could use visible uniforms.
If you see suspicious activity – prostitution/soliciting, drug dealing, car break-ins, please call the police non-emergency number: 874-8575. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. The more we turn a blind eye to the ‘small’ nuisance crimes, the more ‘normal’ they will become.
I’m guilty of not calling. Just last week, I witnessed open drug deals and solicitation on the sidewalk, and did not call. Sometimes I just despair of these cycles, and don’t want to get involved. Were that we had leadership directly, persistently facing these issues, we citizens might not feel so hopeless in our fight.