Portland mayor's goals for city include middle-income housing, connectivity

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PORTLAND — Mayor Michael Brennan outlined an ambitious course for the city Jan. 21 in his annual State of the City address.

“It doesn’t start with program or grand master plans,” Brennan said. “It starts with values, those we embrace and those we act upon.”

Brennan’s 45-minute address, ranging from affordable housing, to increased broadband availability, to job creation based on old and new city resources, to full-year educational opportunities, delivered an optimistic view geared to making the city more open, accessible and prosperous for all.

“Nothing surprised us,” Brennan said of a Greater Portland Council of Governments report on a shortage of affordable housing for people earning 80 to 100 percent or less of the area median income.

But he also said he is confident the City Council would enact “inclusionary zoning” that mandates new housing development to match median income levels.

Brennan said the city will continue to end chronic homelessness using a seven-point plan developed by former City Manager Mark Rees, and evaluate which city parcels could be used to create affordable housing.

Brennan also looked off the peninsula for development, noting new zoning on Forest Avenue from Woodford to Morrill’s corners will promote growth and preserve historic elements and buildings in the stretch between Woodford Street and Stevens Avenue.

“We need to grow the city and grow our population, but the growth needs to be planned growth,” he said.

Citing a $50,000 grant to develop a “health informatics” hub to provide medical data and programming, the expansion of the International Marine Terminal on Commercial Street, and the creation of a New England Ocean Cluster to develop new and fuller uses of maritime industries, Brennan said he will convene a working group to develop a fiber optic communication network in the city.

“It will ensure our economic and social future,” he said.

Brennan said city students will benefit from the expansion of nutrition services and education programs into the summer months, with a grant from the National League of Cities.

The goal by 2017, he said, is to have 85 percent of city students reading at their grade level, 90 percent graduating high school on time, and 50 percent of the graduates earning a secondary education degree.

The ultimate goal, Brennan said, is a city where “everybody feels supported, they have a place to contribute and a role to play in the community.”

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

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.