Election 2015: Newcomer challenges South Portland mayor

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SOUTH PORTLAND — An incumbent and a political novice are campaigning for the District 4 seat on the City Council this November. 

Mayor Linda Cohen, of Tamarack Drive, who will complete her first three-year term as a city councilor in December, is seeking re-election against newcomer Andrew Snyder, of Boysenberry Drive.  

District 4 includes the southern corner of the city, bordering Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough. It is bounded generally by Main Street, Westcott Road, Broadway, Evans Street and Fickett Street.

Linda Cohen

Cohen, who grew up in Portland, but moved to South Portland about 40 years ago, manages the Mill Creek branch of Bangor Savings Bank.  

Cohen has been involved in municipal government, both as an employee and a volunteer, for almost 30 years. She was city clerk for nearly 13 years in South Portland before becoming city clerk in Portland for another 10. 

She said her familiarity with the city is one of her strengths as a city councilor.

“I know the community, and I know the people in it. I know how to relate to different people in this community. I’m not a one-issue person, and I think that I’m approachable,” Cohen said. 

“It seems like you just get your feet wet by the time your first term is over,” she continued. “You really start to understand some of the things you’ve done and you also start to see the result of some of the work you’ve started. I’d like to be part of their completion, too.”

Cohen was elected in 2011 on a campaign promise to work toward bringing a new Municipal Services Facility to the city. The groundbreaking for the new 70,000-square-foot facility, off Highland Avenue, took place in August and the first phase is slated to be completed in December. 

Cohen is also passionate about the environmentally sustainable direction the city is moving in and said she wants to continue pushing the city in that direction. One of her goals is to create the means to provide more solar energy to more residents.

The city is on track to take the first substantial steps toward this measure, having put out a bid in early September to install solar infrastructure at 10 municipal sites, including the capped landfill next to the new Municipal Services Facility. 

Cohen said she also wants to proceed with “creating another cross-town route,” in an effort to provide a more efficient means of driving from east to west across South Portland. 

“It has long been recognized as an issue,” Cohen said. As the number of cars in the city increases, the need for a cross-town connector becomes more necessary, she said. 

In late August, the city submitted a proposal to the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation Committee for grant money to study the feasibility of a new east-west corridor. 

Cohen said she has enjoyed being mayor, too. “As mayor, you are the spokesperson for the city and you get to be the curator,” she said.

As the face and image of the city, it’s important to project a professional image, she said, and “I think I project a professional image.”

As the mayor and a councilor, Cohen said, “I think that I bring balance to all of my decisions. … We have a council that is very heavily into some issues. I tend to think of myself more as a middle-of-the-road moderate.”

Andrew Snyder

Snyder, a real estate broker and Realtor for Benchmark Residential and Investment Real Estate, grew up in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and moved to South Portland in 1990. He previously worked in the bio-tech industry, as a protein chemist for Atlantic Antibodies in Scarborough. 

Snyder said he is running because he wants to improve and change things about the city.

For example, he said, the city’s ability to improve deteriorated roadways and to get snow plowed in a timely manner should be improved. 

A more far-reaching issue that Snyder said he wants to address is government transparency.

“I’m running because I want to see more accountability, both for city staff and the City Council,” he said. “It’s the council’s job to hold city staff accountable.”

A “symptom of the oversight problem,” Snyder said, was the misinterpretation of the city’s zoning code by Code Enforcement Officer Pat Doucette that initially allowed NGL Supply Terminal Co. to move forward with its application to install a liquid petroleum storage facility at Rigby Rail Yard. 

Snyder doesn’t just want to see the checks and balances system strengthened. He said he wants to ensure that residents can have “a say in exactly what happens in the environment around us.”

That level of enforcement should go beyond the determination of whether an application aligns with the city’s code, he said. Included in the determination, with NGL and with subsequent applications, should be a wider examination with regard to the safety of citizens, he said. 
“I’m running because I feel that the City Council needs to be more responsible to the citizens” Snyder said. “In particular we need to do a better job of managing both the government and the staff.”
Snyder said his experience with “heavy-duty management and dealing with quality systems in the diagnostic and bio-tech industry,” and having to adhere to a “Federal Drug Administration-regulated industry,” qualifies him to be a councilor. 
“At any point, the FDA can come in and do an inspection (and ask questions),” he said. “To me, government is no different, (or) it shouldn’t be. At any time, a citizen should be able to come in and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing? Why are you doing what you’re doing? Prove to me that you’re following what you say you’re going to follow.'” 
Snyder said Cohen has done a lot for the city, and has been a good councilor. “I do feel that I can do a better job,” he said. “I have more experience in terms of asking tougher questions, getting answers, and making things happen.” 
Absentee ballots are available at City Hall and may be requested until 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29. They must be returned by 8 p.m on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3. Residents can vote for candidates in all districts, not just candidates in their district.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

Linda Cohen

Andrew Snyder

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.
  • beachmom H

    Giant picture of Snyder and tiny picture of Cohen.

    Snyder and Rose and Fox want to work together to rid South Portland of Portland Pipeline and all petroleum products. They are going about trying to scare people about the propane business and telling people that Rigby Yard is going to blow up.
    These businesses have been in town for over 50 years. They are good neighbors. They pay tons in taxes. They provide jobs. They heat our homes.
    If they go, who will pay for us to convert our homes to gas or solar or wind? Where with the taxes be made up? Where will the jobs go?

    And by the way, South Portland is one of the best towns around when it comes to plowing. You can actually tell when you cross into Scarborough in the winter because our guys do so much better.

    They guys have a far left, radical green agenda that is harmful to our way of life. Don’t elect these people from away who are trying to change our way of life.