I have tremendous respect for Mayor Nick Mavodones and I agree with him that Portland is a great place to live. From our everyday quality of life, to the public safety that protects our families, to our unique community of neighborhoods, we have so many reasons to love living here.

Portland is also the economic engine of Maine. With over 4,000 businesses and a population that reaches 100,000 daily, we are the foundation for Maine’s prosperity and central to Maine’s recovery.

Unfortunately, we cannot ignore the hard truth that our economic engine and our unique neighborhoods are hurting; our population has stagnated, our schools have fewer kids and our businesses are frustrated with how hard it is to start and expand. Taxes and fees are constantly rising, making it harder and harder for families and businesses to stay and expand.

I spoke to an elderly man this summer who owns a corner lot in Rosemont. His wife died a couple of years ago and his property tax payment is $4,000 annually. He told me that for the first time in his life, he was unable to make the payment and is worried he may lose the house.

At the same time, we saw once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like the Maine State Pier redevelopment dissolve. With an opportunity to build a $100 million gem on our waterfront, generating millions of dollars of economic activity, the City Council was unable to close the deal. Today, the pier stands dormant, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars in upkeep and generating next to nothing, while the elderly man in Rosemont, and the rest of us, have to pick up the tab.

Similarly, our schools as a whole are not making the grade. While we do have two schools that are nationally recognized for their excellence, two of our elementary schools are on the federal “failing” list. Hundreds of our elementary school students do not advance a full grade each year.

Over 50 percent of our high school students do not meet the national standards in math and science. And many of our buildings are falling apart and in desperate need of capital funds.

It is not acceptable that some kids in Portland get a great education while many others do not. Excellence is everywhere, or it is nowhere.

This is why we cannot sit back and accept that Portland is on the right track. We need new leadership that will implement real change.

We need new leadership that has proven experience in forming a vision and carrying it out. We need new leadership that knows how to focus on customer service, create accountability, and implement excellence. New leadership that sees opportunities for economic development and doesn’t let them slip away.

New leadership that understands and can confront the struggle that Maine families and businesses go through every day.

As the CEO of a multimillion-dollar organization that transformed itself through a customer-first culture, I understand that leadership and accountability breed success. I took an organization that was foundering, LearningWorks, and rebuilt it by focusing its mission, demanding accountability, prioritizing customer service and instilling excellence in every facet. In the state Senate, I learned the difference between government that can help and lead vs. bureaucratic inefficiency that can derail even the best of intentions.

The city of Portland is no different. We need a mayor who has led in both the private and public sector. We need a leader who can set our vision and implement it down to the smallest pothole.

A leader who envisions robust economic development and who implements it by eliminating even the smallest unnecessary roadblock.

A leader who knows our schools are struggling and who understands that the duplication of services hurts our kids. A leader who constantly listens to the customer by being in the community and fixing problems, no matter how small.

We must revitalize our city as the No. 1 economic and cultural center in Maine. We must make sure that our neighborhoods are affordable and our families are safe.

We must put Portland on the lists for the best schools, the best jobs and the most affordable place to live.

We can do better. We must do better. For Portland, the time is now.

 

– Special to the Press Herald