Portland City Council: 2 incumbents, 2 challengers for at-large seats

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PORTLAND — Four candidates are running for two at-large seats on the City Council inNovember.

Incumbent Councilors John Anton and Jill Duson are seeking re-election, Anton for a second term and Duson for a fourth.

Charles Bragdon, a regular attendee at council meetings, is also on the ballot. He ran last year for the District 1 seat, but lost to incumbent Councilor Kevin Donoghue.

Councilor Dan Skolnik threw his hat into the at-large race after deciding not to seek re-election in District 3; he is running as a write-in candidate. Skolnik initially said work commitments did not allow him adequate time to campaign in District 3.

John Anton

Anton, 45, lives on Spruce Street in the West End and is president of Northern New England Housing Investment Fund. He is married to Renee Schwalberg; they have two young children.

Anton said he has tried to improve the city’s fiscal policies during his first term and there is more he would like to accomplish.

“I want to work on developing a true capital improvements plan,” he said, that looks at future needs. He said he also wants to work on multi-year budgeting and a debt management policy that encourages responsible borrowing by the city.

Anton said he also sees room for improvement is the city inspection and development review process.

“I think the regulations are OK, but they are needlessly difficult departments for developers to work with,” said Anton, a graduate of Yale University and the University of North Carolina.

The former Planning Board member said he’d like to see Congress Street continue to develop into a “24/7” live-work district.

He supports allowing more non-marine development and businesses along Commercial Street, but believes the current proposal to loosen rules in the Waterfront Central Zone would allow too much non-marine development on piers.

“There is still a marine-dependent need and we need to be sensitive to that,” he said.

Anton said he supports having an elected mayor and allowing local non-citizen voting.

Charles Bragdon

Bragdon, 42, is the owner of A-Plus Family Taxi and lives at Munjoy South. He is married to Jennifer Bradgon and they have two children.

Bragdon said he would work to help get homeless people services that would enable them to find employment. He said the city could create a re-employment project by requiring businesses that apply for grants through the city to employ a specified number of people enrolled in the program.

A graduate of Deering High School, Bragdon said he does not support bringing the USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier to the Eastern Waterfront. He said his neighbors on the hill are against it, because it will block views of the waterfront.

“It’s almost as tall as the Portland Observatory,” Bragdon  said. He suggested the city might be able to find another location for the carrier.

Bragdon said he would also work to make sure vacant lots don’t become dumping grounds and to reinstate heavy trash pick-up by the city.

The proposed Waterfront Central Zone changes take too much away from the working waterfront, he said. He said non-marine businesses should not be allowed on the first floors of pier buildings.

Bragdon said he supports having an elected mayor and allowing non-citizen voting on local issues.

Jill Duson

Duson, 56, is director of the state Bureau of Rehabilitation Services. She lives on Pennell Avenue and has a son in college, an adult daughter and one grandchild.

Duson has served as an at-large councilor since 2001, including two one-year terms as mayor. She said she likes to work with people and is seeking a fourth term to help “move things along” at City Hall.

She said a priority for her is continued redevelopment of Congress Street. She said she would encourage further residential development, while supporting the existing business district.

Duson said she would work to bring industrial development to Riverside Street and business to Morrill’s Corner that is attractive to residents.

“I think it would be great to have a cineplex over there,” said Duson, who has a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.

Any changes to the Waterfront Central Zone, she said, should not disadvantage the working waterfront. She said she would not support residential or hotel uses (neither of which are proposed) and also wants to look carefully at what types of non-marine businesses are allowed in the zone.

“It’s important to find a way to help the pier owners, but not if it (adversely) affects the working waterfront,” Duson said.

She said she supports having an elected mayor, although she said the proposal going to voters essentially creates a “super councilor.” She does not support non-citizen voting.

Dan Skolnik

Skolnik, 42, is a Motley Street resident and an attorney practicing in criminal defense and copyright and trademark law. He is also head of Hall of Fans, a website company for music and sports memorabilia.

A gun control advocate, Skolnik is working on a policy that would ban guns from places where mass gatherings take place, including City Hall, the Cumberland County Civic Center, parks and Hadlock Field. There would be some exceptions for people who have concealed weapons permits.

Skolnik said he also wants to continue his work on the Martin Luther King Memorial project along the Bayside Trail, which he spearheaded.

He also worked with the city manager’s office to include proposed funding in the 2012 budget for equipment that will allow city meetings to be streamed on the city website.

“I see that as a huge benefit for open government,” said Skolnik, who has a law degree from University of San Francisco School of Law.

As for the Waterfront Central Zone changes, Skolnik said, “We need to maintain our working waterfront, but its just not realistic to not allow other development down there.”

Skolnik said he will not vote for an elected mayor because he objects to the ranked-choice voting component. He also will vote against the non-citizen voting question because he does not think it should be a local decision.

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