Portland council gets new member, new rules

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PORTLAND — Monday’s City Council meeting marked a new beginning for Councilor Kim Cook and the return of Councilor Spencer Thibodeau.

Cook was sworn in with Councilors Justin Costa and Jill Duson as councilors began their new legislative year in two meetings that lasted about an hour.

Thibodeau returned to the chambers after spending most of last month in the hospital, following complications from an Oct. 26 appendectomy.

Cook replaces David Brenerman, who decided against seeking a second term for the District 5 seat he won in 2014. Duson won her sixth term as an at-large councilor, while Costa was re-elected to the District 4 seat he first won in 2014.

City Manager Jon Jennings and Mayor Ethan Strimling both praised Brenerman for his honesty, honor and dedication, especially in his economic development work.

Strimling then offered advice to Cook and welcomed the rest of the councilors to a new year.

“Find a way to enjoy the ride. The work we do here is very important … the stakes are high,” he said. “It is a privilege to serve here; it can be hard.”

While his annual State of the City address is a month away, Strimling said some of his goals are to enact a pesticide ordinance that received a first reading from the council on Nov. 6, passing a proposed mandate for paid sick leave for public and private employees, and establishing universal, free pre-kindergarten programs at city schools.

Council committee leadership and membership will be announced Dec. 18 and will include a new Rules and Reporting Committee, while the Health and Human Services Committee will have Public Safety added to its name and purview.

Council rules for the coming year were finalized at a Nov. 27 ad hoc committee meeting with Strimling and Councilors Nick Mavodones and Belinda Ray. Cook, Duson and Councilor Pious Ali also attended.

Rule changes are few and were characterized Monday by Strimling as largely housekeeping items. Among the changes is an increase from $5,000 to $50,000 in the amount spent by the city that must receive council approval.

Council rules will also require anyone speaking in a hearing to identify pertinent organizations or agencies they belong to, along with their name and address.

The mayor will also be allowed to grant an extension beyond the three minutes allowed each speaker without seeking a council vote, although individual councilors would have the right to object.

Amendments to orders must also receive at least five affirmative votes to pass.

In its first meeting, the new council had a first reading on a proposed 180-day moratorium on tearing down buildings in the R-6 zone on Munjoy Hill. If passed, the moratorium would be effective Dec. 4. A public hearing and council vote are scheduled for Dec. 18.

After missing all of November’s meetings, Thibodeau said he is easing back into his work as a councilor and as an attorney at Verrill Dana.

“It is amazing. I am unbelievably grateful to the team at Maine Medical Center,” Thibodeau said.

“It is so easy to take your health for granted,” the 29-year-old, who was released from the hospital Nov. 29, said.

His absenc led to the rescheduling of the annual District 2 meeting, which will now be held at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 13, at the Reiche Community Center, 166 Brackett St.

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

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling and former Councilor David Brenerman share a laugh after Brenerman received a parting gift Dec. 4 at City Hall.

City Councilors Kim Cook, Justin Costa and Jill Duson take their oaths of office Dec. 4 at Portland City Hall. Costa and Duson were incumbents; Cook replaced Councilor David Brenerman.

Councilor Spencer Thibodeau returned to the Portland City Council Dec. 4. He missed all of November while hospitalized after an appendectomy.

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