PORTLAND — Three City Council seats are up for grabs in the Nov. 6 election, and each race pits an incumbent against a challenger who has never held elected office.
Two-term Councilor Kevin Donoghue faces Justin Benjamin Pollard in District 1, which includes the East End, the Old Port, downtown and the islands.
Another two-term incumbent, Councilor David Marshall, is challenged by Shane Boyington in District 2, which covers the West End, Parkside and Oakdale.
In the race for an at-large seat, Councilor Nicholas Mavodones Jr., who has served since 1997, is taking on Wellington Lyons.
Donoghue, 33, is a manager at Spectrum Seminars, which provides information and consulting on government housing programs. A member of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, he said affordable housing is a cornerstone of his platform.
“One of our best approaches to achieving (value for taxpayers) is to expand our tax base, the essential ingredient for which, I believe, is residential development, with a particular emphasis on affordable housing,” Donoghue said.
At an Oct. 18 forum with all six candidates at the Preble Street Soup Kitchen, Donoghue said the city should use more local measures, such as tax increment financing, to expand housing and provide services for the city’s homeless population.
A key component of expanded housing in the city is the development of new public transportation options, said Donoghue, who also sits on the council’s Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee.
“Efficient growth depends on thoughtful planning, with alternatives to the (car) playing a critical part,” he said.
Pollard, 40, is the founder of Pollard Builders, a construction company that specializes in ecologically sustainable buildings. Earlier this year, he ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary to replace Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.
At the forum, Pollard said the city should pursue local strategies to address homelessness, especially as federal and state funds decrease.
“We have an emergency, we have to take steps to fix it,” he said. He also said he encourages the development of rent-to-own housing as a potential solution.
New development should be in keeping with the character of the city’s neighborhoods, and should take into account public transportation, he said after the forum.
“In some ways, this type of development is going back to an earlier era,” Pollard said.
Marshall, 34, is a professional artist and executive director of the Maine Artist Collective. The city’s schools are a focus of his campaign.
“The highest priority for the council over the next three years is investing in our school buildings,” he said. “We need to build a new school to replace Hall Elementary … and make improvements to our existing school buildings, such as Reiche Community School.”
Marshall chairs the council’s Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee, and has been a vocal proponent of expanding the city’s public transit system.
“For the similar costs as widening a single highway lane, we can invest in rail to stimulate economic development in our downtown while providing needed transit connections,” he said.
Boyington, 34, is a political science student at the University of Southern Maine, and has worked in social services for 10 years. He also is known as “Taffy Pulls,” a drag queen who has performed at charitable events over recent months, he said.
Boyington said he believes the council must change the way it functions.
“I think lots of people in District 2 are ready for change. We don’t get leadership on the most basic of (needs), like trash removal, street lights and parking,” he said. “… Our city councilors do not listen to the community in a respectful way. I’ve heard that from small business owners, homeless folks and people on the street.”
While he wouldn’t single out individual issues, Boyington said he is skeptical of Marshall’s vision for an expanded transit system.
“We get served giant ideas,” he said. “… We can’t get the bus system to work for everyone, but we get served the idea we need a trolley.”
Mavodones, 52, is the operations manager for Casco Bay Lines. Now seeking his sixth term on the council, he also served four stints as mayor.
He held that office as recently as last year, before a change in the City Charter made it an elected office. Mavodones then lost to Michael Brennan in the city’s first popular mayoral election since 1923.
Like Marshall, Mavodones stresses the importance of the city schools.
“Although I view economic development, housing and budget as very important issues, I will make it a priority to move forward the replacement of Hall Elementary School and renovations to several other elementary schools,” he said.
Lyons, 30, is a lawyer with Rogue Industries, a start-up manufacturer of technology accessories. While new to politics, he said he has worked with Equality Maine for the expansion of marriage rights and the Maine League of Young Voters to protect same-day voter registration.
The most pressing issue for the city, he said, “is a lack of access to responsive city government, to public transportation, and to good-paying jobs.
“Our campaign has talked to dozens of small-business owners who have complained about a lack of responsiveness at City Hall,” Lyons said.
As a “pro-business Democrat,” he said, “it’s critical that our council is represented by a small business owner … it’s time we had some entrepreneurial energy on the council.”