Brunelle seeks to unseat Portland at-large Councilor Mavodones

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PORTLAND — Nick Mavodones, the longest-tenured city councilor, faces an electoral challenge from Joey Brunelle, who is making his second run for an at-large council seat in as many years.

Mavodones, 58, of 79 Chenery St., is seeking his eighth three-year term. He also served as mayor before the position was an elected one. Married, with three grown children, he is the operations manager at Casco Bay Lines.

Brunelle, 33, of 61 Kellogg St., is a web designer and developer who finished second to Councilor Jill Duson in his first campaign for public office in 2017. He is unmarried and has no children.

Portland elections are nonpartisan. Election Day is Nov. 6.

Nick Mavodones

“I’m actually feeling very energized about being on the council. I bring a balance of experience and an ability to look at things from a different perspective,” Mavodones said.

A long-standing chairman of the Finance Committee, Mavodones said he sees a city that is prospering in ways, but is concerned the future holds an economic downturn.

“Hopefully it will not be as strong as the last one, but there will be people struggling to pay bills and taxes,” he said.

Mavodones also worries about the level of city debt, including the pension obligation note which increases about $1 million annually through June 30, 2026, and how the debt may impact operating budgets.

“When it comes to budgets there aren’t a whole lot of places to look (to cut),” he said. “Both the schools and city are labor intensive.”

Mavodones said he appreciated the School Department taking a comprehensive look at its facilities and operations after a difficult budgeting process this year. He would also like to see some kind of local option tax, even if assessed on a regional level, that could help fund areas like capital improvements.

Mavodones is ambivalent about how to house and serve the city’s homeless population.

“There is merit in a large shelter; I am not sure whether it should be 200 people,” he said. “I’m open to the scattered shelter idea.”

Mavodones keeps costs in mind.

“There is a fiscal reality to having one shelter, there is a greater fiscal reality to having two or three,” he said.

The proposed site at the Barron Center gives Mavodones pause because it needs a change in a zoning map and city staff and councilors have carefully considered which areas could have shelters.

“We need to find the right thing that minimizes as much as possible, the impacts on specific neighborhoods,” he said.

Mavodones supports a referendum on extending the vote to noncitizen residents, but said he personally believes voting is conferred with citizenship.

“In principle, it would be great for all employers to provide paid time off to all employees,” he said, “But I am not sure the city should be regulating wage and hour employee benefits.”

Brunelle

“I don’t see myself as the savior who knows everything and can fix all of Portland’s problems, I see myself as a facilitator,” Brunelle said.

Brunelle does not lack for ideas of his own about governing the city. He is now hosting workshops on “participatory budgeting.” The process is based on more direct citizen involvement from the start, with proposals facing votes before being forwarded to elected officials.

He would like to extend the coming property tax relief program for residents 62 and older to all, and would consider some kind of progressive property tax which might involve other rebates to some owners.

Having lived in San Francisco as housing costs soared, Brunelle said he would like to limit short-term rentals to a one owner/one unit basis with a 90-day cap on annual rentals.

He would also give nonprofit housing agencies the right of first refusal on any city land sales.

Brunelle opposes the single shelter/service center plan the city had proposed on the Barron Center grounds.

“I am fully in support of the scattered site model,” he said, adding he fears the city would be repeating its mistake in Bayside of placing an entire housing and service model in one area.

Brunelle envisions as many as five shelters in the city to serve its varied homeless population. If the services come at a higher cost, he said that also underscores the city’s need to develop revenue sources aside from property taxes.

More revenue streams would also help fund city schools, and should include a payment in lieu of taxes program for city nonprofits, Brunelle said.

Brunelle supports allowing residents who are not citizens to vote in municipal elections, but said the proposed ordinance introduced this year “came up a little quickly.”

“I am grateful for the debate because it started us talking,” he added.

He also supports requiring public and private employers to provide paid time off to employees.

“For me, this is a matter of principle,” Brunelle said. “If you are a business owner and not solvent enough to pay employees a living wage and provide benefits that give them dignity and security, you should not be in business.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Age: 58

Address: 79 Chenery St.

Family: Married, three grown children

Occupation: Casco Bay Lines Operations Manager

Education:  High school graduate

Experience: Two terms on School Board, seeking eighth council term

Website, social media: www.nickforcouncil.com, www.facebook.com/nickforcouncil, portland4nick@gmail.com

Age: 33

Address: 61 Kellogg St. #2

Family: Unmarried, no children

Occupation: Web designer and developer

Education: Brown University, art history and archeology

Experience: Unsuccessful run for City Council in 2017

Website, social media: www.brunelleforportland.org

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.