Portland council sends Charter changes to voters, quashes Peaks Island taxi competition

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PORTLAND — Voters will be asked in November whether they want the city to have an elected mayor.

The City Council on Monday night put three Charter Commission questions on the ballot.

It also told a teenage provider of taxi service on Peaks Island he has to play by the same rules as the non-profit service underwritten by the city.

One Charter question would change the way the school budget is developed, presented and reviewed, and change the name of the School Committee to the Board of Public Education.

Another question includes several technical changes submitted by the city clerk, corporation counsel and finance director to clear up confusing language in city codes and policies, remove obsolete language and clarify or conform language to current practice or law.

The elected mayor decision, probably the most highly anticipated question, proposes the city hold its first election for mayor in November 2011. The job would have a four-year term limit, and be a full-time position with pay “no less than 1.5 times the median household income in Portland” with a minimum annual salary of just over $67,000.

The mayor would be elected by ranked-choice voting. That means voters will be asked on the ballot to rank candidates by choice. If a candidate doesn’t take 50 percent of the vote plus one vote, the candidate with the least number of first-place votes will be eliminated and the votes recalculated.

The Charter Commission was elected in June 2009 to study the existing charter and recommend changes. The charter had not been reviewed in 25 years.

The council unanimously approved sending the recommendations of the commission to voters.

Peaks Island taxi

The council on Monday also amended its taxi ordinance in reaction to a teenager who has been offering rides on his golf cart for tips on Peaks Island.

Matt Rand’s summer business is apparently taking fares away from the city-subsidized Peaks Island Taxi Service.

Rand, 19, does not have a set rate for rides, but accepts tips. Because he doesn’t charge a fare, he didn’t have to apply for a vehicle-for-hire license.

The Peaks Island Taxi, on the other hand, has a set fare and had to meet the city’s requirements for insurance and an operator’s license. The city’s Peaks Island transportation fund pays the fee.

Although the island taxi is basically operating as a pay-as-you-please service, the non-profit service says Rand’s golf cart is taking away business.

On Monday, the council voted 5-3 to change the definition of “compensation” in the taxi ordinance to include tips. It also changed the definition of for-hire to include Rand’s type of transportation.

The changes would require Rand to get liability insurance and a city license for his golf cart, which he operates four days a week for 2 1/2 months in the summer.

“This amendment puts out private competition,” said Rand, a Cape Elizabeth resident who summers on Peaks Island. “It’s creating a government monopoly.”

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