Proposed Portland charter changes ready for public review

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

PORTLAND — The commission elected in November 2008 to review and recommend changes to the City Charter has come up with preliminary recommendations that include switching to a full-time, elected mayor and changing the name of the School Committee.

The Charter Commission will hold a public hearing June 10 and plans to submit its final recommendations to the City Council in time for a July 8 meeting.

A central question the commission has tackled is whether the city should have an elected mayor, and what type of power that mayor should wield. Currently, City Councilors take turns serving one-year mayoral terms, acting basically as a chairman of the City Council.

The panel is recommending the city have a mayor elected by ranked voting. The winner of the mayoral election would have to receive a majority of votes, with the lowest vote-getter dropped until a winning candidate has at least 50 percent of the votes tallied.

The mayor would serve a four-year term, limited to two consecutive terms. The city manager would still be the city’s chief executive officer, in charge of day-to-day operations. The mayor would oversee implementation of city policies, give an annual State of the City address and create a vision for the city.

He or she would prepare and facilitate adoption of budgets, although the city manager would still draft the annual city budget.

The mayor would be paid at least 1.5 times Portland’s median household income, plus benefits. According to a fact sheet from the commission, if elected today the minimum annual salary would be more than $67,000.

The commission in its preliminary recommendations is also calling for several changes to how the School Committee operates. The charter would require regular budget meetings between the School Department and the City Council; a scheduled State of the Schools address, and making pay equal for School Committee members and city councilors.

The commission is also recommending changing the name of the School Committee to the Board of Public Education.

A host of technical changes are also proposed, most categorized as housekeeping issues that have developed in the nearly 25 years since the charter was reviewed. They include planning and zoning rules.

The commission highlights one technical change in its summary of proposed changes. It recommends that district councilors and School Board members can only be recalled by voters in the district they represent, and that only district voters be allowed to vote in recall elections.

To see the commission’s full preliminary report, go to portlandmaine.gov/charter/chartercommission.asp. Hard copies are also available at the Portland Public library and at City Hall.

To submit written comments, send e-mail to liz@portlandmaine.gove or mail to Charter Commission, c/o Elizabeth Boynton, 211 Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St., Portland, ME, 04101.

The public hearing on the commission’s recommendations is scheduled for June 10 at 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall.

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

0