Portland Charter Commission to vote on final recommendations

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PORTLAND — A year’s worth of work by the Charter Commission has resulted in major recommendations to change the way city government works.

The Charter Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday, July 8, on sending its recommendations to voters in November. The biggest change the commission is recommending is switching to an elected, full-time mayor.

The mayor would be elected through “ranked choice voting,” and the winner would have to take at least 50 percent of the vote. If a candidate fails to win on the first count, subsequent tabulations would be held with the lowest vote-getter dropped from contention, until a clear winner emerges.

The mayor would serve a four-year term and be paid a minimum of $67,359 annually. He or she would set a vision for the city, act as chairman of the City Council and oversee implementation of city policies. The mayor would also provide guidance to the city manager during annual budget preparations and have limited veto power.

The city manager would continue to manage day-to-day operations of the city.

Currently, a city councilor is appointed to serve as mayor by fellow councilors, for a one-year term. The mayor chairs council meetings and represents the city at events.

The commission is also recommending changing the name of the School Committee to the Board of Public Education, and requiring the board to meet regularly with the City Council for budget meetings and deliver an annual State of the Schools report to the council.

There are also several technical changes proposed by the commission, most recommended by city staff to bring the city into compliance with state and federal regulations and to reflect current city policy.

The charter has not been reviewed in nearly 25 years. Portland residents voted to establish a review board in November 2008, and commissioners started meeting in June 2009.

Depending on the commission’s vote Thursday, voters will be asked this November to approve the proposed changes, and will vote on each recommendation separately.

For more information, go to portlandmaine.gov and select the Charter Commission link on the left side of the main page. The commission meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in City Council Chambers at City Hall.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net