Donoghue, Marshall bow out after nearly a decade on Portland council

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PORTLAND — They were elected together and they will leave the City Council the same way.

On Monday, Dec. 7, District 1 Councilor Kevin Donoghue and District 2 Councilor David Marshall will each wrap up nine years serving their respective districts.

“I think it will be an adjustment,” Donoghue, 36, said Sunday. “I am very much looking forward to the time that will be yielded in my schedule.”

Donoghue has represented a district that includes the peninsula east of High Street, the Casco Bay islands, and a small portion of Back Cove.

He will be replaced by Belinda Ray; Spencer Thibodeau will take Marshall’s seat.

“It feels good, nine years is a long run,” Marshall, 37, said Monday. “I am ready for a break and to try some new things.”

Marshall and Donoghue, who were friends before they ran for the council, sat next to each other in council chambers during their tenure, and advocated for many of the same issues: zoning, housing, transportation infrastructure, development of the Arts District, and the creation of Creative Portland, a nonprofit that promotes the city’s creative economy.

City elections are nonpartisan, but both councilors were Green Independent Party members when they were first elected. Donoghue said he is now an unenrolled voter.

“Party affiliation ceased adding value to my public service,” he said. “The most honest thing a candidate can do is run on policy objectives. What I was seeking was a mandate on policy agenda.”

Both said they decided to run after attending City Council meetings and coming away unhappy about what they saw.

Marshall, a plein air painter who works outdoors, said he was stirred up by city restrictions on street artists that eventually led to a “paint-in,” where artists dared city officials to cite them for working without permits.

“It was the first sort of political action I had been involved in,” he said.

Marshall was also unhappy about a 2006 traffic study that anticipated a 20 percent increase in traffic volume by advocating more travel lanes be added to some streets, including State and High streets.

“It wasn’t the city I wanted to live in, and I wanted to change that,” he said.

Both said they encountered a steep learning curve in policy and council procedure.

“I came into office knowing a fair amount about the city policy making process,” Donoghue, who has a master’s degree in community planning and development from the University of Southern Maine, said. “In office I learned more about the nature of the process and how to be effective and save your energy for the appropriate time.”

Marshall said his experience was even more daunting.

“For me it was beyond the education I got,” Marshall said. “It was far more challenging than anything I saw in college or high school. The amount of reading material when you get started is voluminous.”

Both also served widely varied districts.

District 1 spans neighborhoods in various stages of redevelopment, as well as the islands. District 2 includes wealthy and impoverished neighborhoods from West End to Parkside. Some spots, including around St. John and Valley streets, had residents who felt ignored and unrecognized.

“I spent a lot of time reaching out to neighborhoods I heard from the least,” Marshall said.

Over the years, their policy initiatives began to take hold.

Instead of more traffic lanes, for example, Spring Street was narrowed from High to Temple streets, and plans to alter Franklin, State and High streets to accommodate all manner of vehicles and pedestrians were accepted by the City Council.

Funding for the changes has not been determined, but Marshall said he is pleased the council has been more responsive to city residents, as opposed to residents of the city’s southern and northern suburbs, who are just driving through.

Donoghue said he is pleased with improvements to bus service, especially along Congress Street on the peninsula, and the creation of a tax increment financing district to fund more improvements.

“What we have accomplished is 15-minute bus frequencies on Congress Street,” he said.

Donoghue also expects new inclusionary zoning that requires housing to be set aside for middle-income earners in projects with 10 or more units – as well as revisions to residential zoning – to help increase the stock of affordable housing in the city.

“This final year of my final term has been the most productive and the most satisfying,” he said.

The last year has also had its share of difficulties, particularly the friction been the City Council and Mayor Michael Brennan over communication and process. Donoghue endorsed Mayor-elect Ethan Strimling’s candidacy, but said the structure of the post is imperfect.

“We have created the position of a political leader for the city, but we have not set up the position to lead on the most important policy, which is the budget,” he said.

Their decisions not to run again were not easy, Marshall and Donoghue agreed.

“Some days you are 99 percent you are not going to run, and then the next day you are 75 percent you are going to run,” Marshall said.

Even with more time to catch up on the French literature he loves, Donoghue said there are things he will miss at City Hall.

“I will miss being in the thick of the policy discussions,” he said. “However, the work it takes to provide constituent service and be part of the policy discussion comes at a cost.”

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

Portland City Councilors Kevin Donoghue, left, and David Marshall are leaving the council after nine years in office.

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.