PORTLAND — City councilors on Monday set out to chart a course for the next five years with goals from each committee and thoughts from the body as a whole.
Time constraints in the workshop led by Pamela Plumb, a former councilor and mayor, reduced the scope to one-year goals in some areas, but a fiscal, social and procedural blueprint was established.
“I want you to be very specific, I don’t want political theory,” Plumb said as she urged councilors to hone in on the goals that will determine the course of action for the year.
Included in the goals are advocating more proactively for the city through the state Legislature and congressional delegation; continuing to streamline licensing and permitting processes for businesses and residents; and a possible November bond referendum that would incorporate the fiscal need to construct or renovate city schools and the Department of Public Works shift from Bayside to a Canco Road campus.
“This would cover all the big-ticket items,” Councilor Ed Suslovic said, adding he had no set amount in mind. The council Finance Committee would first have to make a full determination of the city’s debt obligations and how bonding would affect the property tax rate, he said.
Councilor David Brenerman also set a goal of keeping any property tax rate increase to a maximum of 2.5 percent this year. The tax rate is currently $20.63 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The goals were compiled in the council’s Housing; Energy & Sustainability; Finance; Economic Development; Health & Human Services; and Legislative & Nominating committees.
Following comments by each committee chair, councilors were asked to add their own thoughts and then choose which goals they found most important. Some were as simple as adding more information about composting and recycling to goals about which packages of trash bags city residents buy.
Councilor Jon Hinck set an open-ended goal of reducing the cost, but not the effectiveness of city services.
In terms of economic development, as initially suggested by Brenerman, councilors were unanimous in agreeing on the need to re-evaluate the use of the Portland Ocean Terminal adjacent to the Maine State Pier.
Mayor Ethan Strimling said developing a broadband network and infrastructure is a one-year goal to spur economic growth.
Several councilors, including Justin Costa, said it was time to look at the city tax increment finance zone policies.
Housing and finance goals were the most widely discussed. Councilor Jill Duson, chairwoman of the Housing Committee, said it was important for people to understand its role.
“We are not the affordable housing committee, we are the committee,” she said, adding that its goals include adding 300 to 500 housing units annually and re-evaluating city zoning to determine where it might boost housing development.
Portland City Councilor Nick Mavodones Jr. eyes a list of council goals Monday, Jan. 25, during a City Hall workshop.