South Portland council candidates cool to Clear Skies defense

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SOUTH PORTLAND — There are three City Council seats on the Nov. 7 election ballot, but only one is contested. 

Squaring off for Mayor Patti Smith’s District 2 seat are Kate Lewis of 153 Mussey St. and Christopher Breen of 114 Margaret St.  Smith has served three consecutive three-year terms and cannot run again due to term limits.

District 1 Councilor Claude Morgan, of 75 School St., is running unopposed for a second consecutive term. Morgan was mayor in 2007 while he served a previous three-year term.

Also running unopposed is District 5 candidate Adrian Dowling of 80 Brickhill Ave. Councilor Brad Fox is not seeking re-election.

Among other issues, the four candidates were asked whether the city should continue to defend the Clear Skies Ordinance and their solutions for the increasing need for housing in the city.  

Lewis

Lewis, 41, is married with one child. She is the director of development at Greater Portland Landmarks, volunteer president of the South Portland Land Trust, and serves on the ad hoc Open Space Strategic Planning Committee.

Lewis said if elected, her No. 1 goal would be protecting open spaces. Her second priority would be examining the conditions that would create a sustainable local economy.

“We should look at the local business that are thriving, figure out what makes them successful and recreate the conditions so that can make other businesses successful,” Lewis said.

“Our biggest challenge is significant growth and development pressure. I also think it is our biggest opportunity as a city,” Lewis said. “There is a great desirability to live and work in South Portland because it is a beautiful city, and it has a small town feel, fairly tight neighborhoods, access to arts and culture and recreational opportunities.” 

Lewis said she is unsure whether the city should continue to defend the Clear Skies Ordinance. She said she has not been “privy to our legal counsel’s advice, so I don’t know the strategy that the council is pursuing.”

Lewis said she initially thought the city should defend the lawsuit, but at this time she would like to take a look at all the costs and the strategies and whether “we should pursue other means of accomplishments.”

“I, for one, did not see this level of cost that we have reached at this time,” said Lewis.

Lewis offered several solutions to the increased need for housing in the city, including restricting out-of-town and out-of-state people from operating “day” housing such as airbnb. 

“I don’t think there is a silver bullet; we have to look what makes the most sense to the city,” Lewis said.

Breen

Breen, 47, is married and the father of three. He works as an analyst at Delhaize America, the company that owns and operates Hannaford grocery stores. 

Breen is staunchly opposed to continuing to defend the Clear Skies Ordinance lawsuit. 

“For me, the tar sands issue is bubbling, and with the $1.5 million in legal fees, there is a point where people are going to start rumbling,” Breen said.

He said he wants to “stop the lawsuit and negotiate.”

Although he is not willing to defend the Clear Skies Ordinance, Breen said his No. 1 goal is to protect the environment. He said he is in favor of the city’s pesticide ban.

Breen also said wants to create a new city position to fight the opiod epidemic. 

Breen said the city could build affordable housing on O’Neil Street and if Mahoney Middle School becomes available, he would like the city to work with nonprofits to develop that property.

Morgan

Morgan, 56, works as a collections manager at Dirigo Federal Credit in Lewiston. He said most days he commutes on his motorcycle to work to try to reduce his carbon footprint.

“Ultimately, South Portland is going to be like many other municipalities. We have a fairly robust manufacturing center and industrial center and some of those economies will fade out,” Morgan said. “How do we preserve and cultivate the things we love and prepare for growth and change that we know is inevitable.”

Morgan’s main goal would include “be(ing) a good steward of those changes and to listen carefully to the conversation of the community, and to put that into policy.”

Morgan said the city should continue to defend the Clear Skies Ordinance lawsuit.

“The city has something that is at stake that it is near and dear to us,” Morgan said. “I believe the residents do not want to see further, dangerous industrialization.”

Morgan believes there are two possible ways to increase housing: to support the market and help increase housing stock, and for the city to become an investor in housing.

Morgan said he isn’t sure if the city is there yet or if he is there “for the city to become a bank or lender.”

“I think the voters need to know I am a guy who does policy and potholes. I am a hands-on city councilor,” he said.

Dowling

Dowling, 38, is a member of the Planning Board and chairman of the Arts and Historic Preservation Committee. He also represents the city on two Portland International Jetport committees.

“I feel the biggest challenge is growth,” Dowling said. “The city is growing and people want it to grow, but growth has its downsides.”

Dowling would like to work to make city meetings more inclusive, and also open to those with disabilities, because some meetings are held in places that are not accessible.

“We can do a lot more to reach out to our minorities. We need to be out in the community, actively reaching out,” Dowling said.

He also wants to bring the city infrastructure to a state of good repair.

“Our roads are not in the best of shape,” Dowling said. “It shouldn’t take residents begging and pleading at council meetings to get things done.”

Dowling said he likes the idea of partnerships with nonprofits and the private sector. He highlighted the affordable housing project that LeVariety owner Quang Nguyen and Avesta Housing are proposing; the city loaned Nguyen funds to buy the property. 

“It’s a perfect example of public, nonprofit and private partnerships, including retail space and a community center,” Dowling said. “I would like to see more of those type of approaches taken elsewhere in the city.”

He said he hasn’t had access to the city’s strategic discussions about defending the Clear Skies Ordinance, and lacks the information necessary to come down on one side or the other.

Ultimately, Dowling said, he wants voters “to know that I am committed to doing the work of making the city a place that is inclusive of everyone and that no one is left behind.”

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan

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