LA VIDA LOCAL: IRREGULAR NOTES ON WEST END LIFE
Why I’m Not Voting for Mayor
By Rosanne Graef
“It’s like deja vu all over again.” If Yogi Berra were living in today’s Portland, he could well quote himself when considering the position of mayor and the 2019 campaign.
As in the 2015 mayoral race, we’ve got an incumbent who’s often at loggerheads with other councilors, as well as one whose leadership has resulted in a lawsuit against the City by its residents—Congress Square Park then, Clean Elections now.
Then vs. Now
It makes no difference the cast of characters: Mayor – Brennan or Strimling; City Manager – Rees or Jennings (I’ll skip the actings and interims); City Councilors – Ali, Batson, Brennerman, Cook, Costa, Donohue, Duson, Hinck, Leeman, Marshall, Mavodones, Ray, Suslovic or Thibodeau; the results have been the same. We ended up with four years of stalemate and dysfunction as the players slipped in and out of the roles of ally, avenger, bully, bystander, champion, conciliator, consigliere, enabler, victim.
In the meanwhile, we residents are left struggling with the critical issues facing Portland, such as climate change, homelessness, affordable housing, income inequality… the list goes on.
When there’s an elected position with a relatively high salary, good benefits and perks, the motivation to seek that spot can rapidly swing from the desire to be a public servant to something more self-serving and indicative of personal ambition.
We’ve had this position of elected mayor for eight years now and the experiment has not proven itself to be superior to the prior method of a rotating one-year mayor chosen from the members of the council. Instead we’ve been subjected to almost constant campaigning, backbiting, snarky personality bashing, or self-congratulatory sloganeering promulgated by the candidates, their campaigns, or “grassroots” organizations with their own agenda.
We’ve lost governing to a morass of branding, messaging, and marketing.
More & More Money
And this doesn’t even begin to touch the constant crisis-mode pleas for donations!
Consider what’s been and is being spent on the campaigns for mayor and the position of mayor itself over the past eight years. Then think of the potholes that could have been filled, trees that could have been watered and cared for, school faculty and staff that could have been hired, second and third graders who could have been taught to swim. The mind boggles.
A Suggested Solution for the Next Mayor
While I have no illusions that my leaving the bubbles blank on my ballot in November will change things, one has to start somewhere.
We’re stuck with it for now, but let’s urge the first order of business for whomever is elected mayor on November 5th to be to take immediate steps to eliminate their position as soon as possible. Reopen the Charter Commission, have a special election to choose another at-large councilor, return to the rotating mayor (maybe even change the name to Council Chair), and free us all from this counter-productive municipal structure.
Portland can’t afford to spend the next four years reliving the movie Groundhog Day.
Request an absentee ballot, vote early, ride METRO free to the polls. Whatever it takes, get out there and vote!
Rosanne Graef is a resident of the West End, Portland, ME.