In a state the place unelected metropolis and city managers maintain huge energy, Portland may take a drastically totally different method if voters approve a proposal that will give govt energy to its mayor in a strong-mayor format in November.
In most of Maine, metropolis and city managers wield huge affect over day-to-day operations, successfully working as the top of the native authorities.
Portland’s constitution modification would step away from that mannequin, offering the mayor elevated energy in metropolis authorities, together with the power to veto laws, suggest the town’s price range and enact govt orders.
Of Maine’s 23 cities, solely two have mayors with veto powers — Westbrook and Waterville, which have the sturdy mayor mannequin of presidency. A number of different cities, together with Lewiston, Auburn, Biddeford, Saco, Augusta, Belfast and Hallowell, permit the mayor to vote to interrupt a tie amongst different council members.
Nonetheless, not all people believes the change is crucial and even crucial.
Rep. Michael F. Brennan, D-Portland, the primary instantly elected mayor in Portland because the Nineteen Twenties, is considered one of 15 former Portland mayors who’ve publicly opposed the adjustments. Whereas he testified to Portland’s Constitution Commision in assist of giving the mayor energy to suggest the town price range, he feels the fee went too far.
Eradicating the mayor from the Metropolis Council and making the town supervisor place accountable to the mayor as an alternative of the council is “problematic,” he mentioned.
“What’s being proposed at this level nearly robotically units up a scenario the place you’re going to have battle between the mayor and the Metropolis Council,” Brennan mentioned.
Brennan isn’t alone with worrying. Orlando E. Delogu, a professor emeritus on the College of Maine College of Regulation, fears concentrating an excessive amount of energy in a single particular person. He mentioned the current motion of progressive voices in Portland had been the results of a “dedicated minority” efficiently organizing in municipal elections that always see low turnouts.
“I believe the strong-mayor method is an answer looking for an issue,” Delogu mentioned.
However a number of others see positives within the proposed change. Former mayor Ethan Strimling, who succeeded Brennan, mentioned the fee’s adjustments would develop democracy in Portland and create a system of checks and balances between the mayor and Metropolis Council that will divert energy away from a metropolis supervisor circuitously chosen by voters.
A mayor with sturdy govt energy is the norm for many of the largest cities within the nation. Portland is the one group among the many most populous cities within the 9 Northeastern states that doesn’t permit the mayor to veto all laws.
Whereas that change has regularly been known as a strong-mayor system, Strimling mentioned it additionally expands the facility of the council vis-a-vis the town supervisor. The council would have the facility to amend and set budgets, ratify nominations to metropolis positions appointed by the mayor and take away or censure the mayor with a supermajority vote, amongst different powers.
Even when Portland does change to the strong-mayor mannequin, it’s unlikely it’s going to trigger reverberations for different Maine cities.
Portland is an outlier quite than a mannequin in Maine, mentioned Delogu. He doubted that passage would affect many of the state.
“I believe most Mainers merely regard what occurs in Portland as Portland being Portland,” Delogu mentioned.
Maine is a dispersed, rural state, and a majority of residents dwell in roughly 480 cities, cities, plantations, unorganized townships and different entities which have a mean inhabitants of round 1,400. Delogu didn’t assume passage of the Constitution Fee proposal would change the minds of individuals in these communities, and even within the half-dozen different Maine cities.
However in Westbrook, the place the strong-mayor system has been in place for some time, it’s labored properly, mentioned Colleen Hilton, who served as mayor there from 2009 to 2016.
Hilton mentioned she thought the Constitution Fee’s proposal would make for a simpler authorities in Portland. Nonetheless, the success of the system is commonly contingent on who was elected — these with previous administrative expertise see extra success, Hilton mentioned.
“Portland can put that construction in place, however I believe a number of its success shall be dependent upon who they elect,” Hilton mentioned.
Nonetheless, Brennan doesn’t assume that simply because the system has seen success in Westbrook, it’s going to reach Portland. The state’s largest metropolis has greater than 3 times as many individuals as its western suburb and in addition incorporates Maine’s largest airport and medical heart, he mentioned.