Potential Portland City Council candidates step up as Brenerman bows out

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PORTLAND — Election Day for City Council is not until Nov. 7, but the list of potential and declared candidates for three seats is expanding.

The ballot will not include current District 5 Councilor David Brenerman, who on June 8 announced he will not seek a second term in the district that extends from the Deering neighborhoods to the city’s boundary with Westbrook.

“It is a good time to step away even though there are so many things going on in the city I want to be part of,” Brenerman said.

Brenerman ran unopposed in 2014 to replace former Councilor John Coyne, but candidate registration forms filed at City Hall show three people may try to replace him.

The registration forms allow potential candidates to begin fundraising, but nomination papers to reach the ballot will not be available from the City Clerk’s office until July 3. They must be turned in by Aug. 28.

Brenerman is supporting Kim Cook, of 70 Alba St., who was his campaign treasurer in 2014.

Marpheen Chann, of 5 Verrill St., and Quinn E. Gormley of 114 Belfort St., have also filed registration forms. Chann owns a consulting company, and Gormley is president of MaineTransNet and the community outreach coordinator at Health Equity Alliance.

Incumbent Councilors Jill Duson, of 101 Pennell Ave., and Justin Costa, of 11 Sawyer St., will be seeking re-election. Duson has served five terms in the at-large seat, while Costa was elected to replace former Councilor Cheryl Leeman in 2014. Both have also served on the School Board.

Joey Brunelle, of 61 Kellogg St., a content producer for The Context, announced his candidacy against Duson in March. On June 4, Bree LaCasse, who lives at  296 Spring St., announced she will run. LaCasse is development director for the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project and fought to prevent the sale of Congress Square in 2013.

Kim Rich, of 65 Copley Woods Circle, is running for Costa’s seat. She is self-employed and serves as vice president of the North Deering Neighborhood Association.

Brenerman said sometimes-contentious council proceedings and continued disagreements with Mayor Ethan Strimling on the mayor’s power and duties were not a factor in his decision to step aside.

“In fact, it would probably make me want to run even more,” he said. “But that is not a good reason to run.”

Strimling and Brenerman support the $64 million bond to repair and renovate four city elementary schools, and the mayor last week thanked Brenerman for his work creating the new city Office of Economic Opportunity.

Brenerman also voted to de-fund the special assistant to the mayor, the job now held by Jason Shedlock. When Strimling called for a task force to review the city charter and elected mayor’s role and duties, Brenerman said it is unneeded.

Brenerman and Strimling disagreed on the mayor’s proposed amendments to a tax increment finance zone and credit enhancement agreement between the city and Immucell.

As part of its $17.5 million expansion near Riverside Street, the biotech company will receive $374,000 from its increased tax valuation over the next 12 years. Before a council second reading, public hearing and vote on the TIF, Strimling announced amendments to include local labor, prevailing wages and an apprenticeship program in September 2016.

“No one offered amendments during our deliberations and no one spoke at the committee’s public hearing,” Brenerman said then.

Those amendments were not introduced, but Brenerman agreed to a review by the entire city TIF policy by the Economic Development Committee, which he leads. The review is now underway.

Brenerman also served as an at-large councilor from 1982-85, with one year as mayor, and as a state representative from 1976-82.

“It was a collegial process and it worked pretty well and we had some strong city managers and others who weren’t so good,” Brenerman said about his earlier tenure. “The biggest difference now is email and social media, and lately it has been specific interest groups that try to influence the council through social media.”

He welcomed the increased participation, but it has also increased council workloads.

“I think neighborhoods are much more involved in what happens with decisions made by the council than they used to be, ” he said.

“It’s not like I didn’t know it would be a lot of time, I expected it, and I probably made it into a full-time job. But that is the way I do things,” he said.

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

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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.