PORTLAND – An unscientific survey of Portland voters confirms that people want the winner of the mayoral election Nov. 8 to focus on economic development and jobs.

Michael Brennan, the former state senator who is one of 15 candidates for the office, did the survey over the last few weeks with a ranked-choice approach: Voters were asked to name the biggest concern they think the next mayor should focus on, then the second-biggest and so on.

Then, Brennan campaign staffers used ranked-choice math to narrow it down to the voters’ top concern.

After the first round of tabulations, the issue of having a responsive and modern city government was dropped for ranking lowest. That suggests that voters think City Hall is already modern and responsive, or that achieving this goal is a bit unrealistic.

The second-biggest concerns of those voters were then allocated.

Then the next round’s lowest vote-getter — having an effective voice in Augusta — fell by the wayside.

After second choices were allocated again, economic development carried the day with more than 50 percent of the vote.

It turned out to be a lot of trouble to find out what Brennan already knew.

“I wasn’t surprised to find that economic development and jobs were the major issues,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been talking about in the campaign.”

So have many of the other candidates. Brennan said that’s because it’s tied to so many other concerns.

For instance, economic development means a stronger tax base, and that means more money for schools. It also affects quality of life, because a stronger economy can help support efforts to preserve open space, promote the arts and culture, and other factors that help make a city a good place to live.

Brennan said the survey underscored the uncertainty that many Portlanders feel over the economy and underscored his belief that a good number who have jobs are probably underemployed. He said two out of every five people in Portland have undergraduate degrees, and he would like to see some of the city’s companies that are on solid ground start to hire more skilled workers.

It’s a singles approach to strengthening the economy, he conceded, with a job here and another there.

“People make a mistake when they talk about economic development as hitting home runs” by targeting major employers to come to Portland, he said.

TICKET FORGIVENESS SPLITS FORUM

Judging from Monday’s mayoral forum, one could believe that the top economic concern of Portlanders is ensuring a sound money supply — by avoiding dipping into the wallet to pay parking tickets.

The forum, at the State Theatre, included a question on whether to bring back the city’s parking ticket forgiveness program. Under that policy, a ticket for overtime parking was forgiven, as long as a driver didn’t get a second ticket within six months of the first.

The city eliminated the program in 2010, saying it could no longer justify forgoing about $500,000 a year in parking ticket revenue.

The four candidates who took on the question at the forum split on bringing it back.

Charles Bragdon said the program encouraged people to shop downtown. Fear of a parking ticket, he said, led some people to shun downtown Portland for places where parking is free.

Former state Rep. John Eder agreed on bringing back forgiveness, but used the question to pitch for a change in people’s driving habits. He said the school system, for instance, should no longer allow students to park at school, and make them take public buses instead.

That would help disrupt the city’s car culture, Eder said — which would, in turn, leave more parking spaces.

Jed Rathband said he would keep the current parking ticket system and use the money to beef up the city’s public transit. Peter Bryant also said “no” to ticket forgiveness, saying out-of-towners took advantage of Portland’s leniency.

STRIMLING BACKERS MEET CHALLENGE

Also on the subject of revenue, Ethan Strimling said money is still flowing into his campaign.

Strimling, who’s on leave from his job as head of LearningWorks while he runs for mayor, put out another financial challenge to his supporters, asking them to raise $15,000 in 15 days, starting Sept. 15.

Could just be me, but I think Strimling was seeking a bit of symmetry between the fundraising target, the number of days involved and the date.

Anyway, Strimling said his peeps made it, with nearly 100 contributors kicking in, although the final $25 — which put the fundraising over the top at $15,012 — didn’t come until the last hour of the effort. (It would have been fitting if it had come in the last 15 minutes.)

Strimling said the money will be used for a mailing highlighting how his experience sets him apart from the rest of the field.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]