March 11, 2010

Hopefuls want voters to elect city's mayor

By TOM BELL Staff Writer

— By TOM BELL

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Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer...... Wednesday, May 20, 2009...J.Benson Monaghan, candidate for the charter commission.

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Ben Chipman Charter Commission candidate

Staff Writer

The Charter Commission race in District 1, which encompasses the East End and the islands, pits Benjamin Chipman against Benson Monaghan.

Chipman worked for four years as a legislative aide to former state Rep. John Eder of the Maine Green Independent Party.

Monaghan served four years as an infantry soldier in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division.

Both candidates support changing the commission so Portland voters may elect the mayor. Currently, the council appoints the mayor.

Monaghan said the city's charter should mirror state and federal government practice by letting residents elect the head of the city's executive branch.

He said the public perceives the council as a ''bickering, feuding, divisive body.'' An elected mayor, he said, would provide a point of focus.

An elected mayor ''puts a face on local politics,'' he said. ''By its very nature, you are more involved and more aware.''

He added, ''Yes, it would be messier. I imagine it would lead to some unfortunate politicization over issues. But at the same time, it is a necessity and part of the public, social and political life.''

Chipman said an elected mayor is key to improving the city's economy. ''We need a real visible leader of the city to promote everything Portland has to offer,'' he said.

He wants the council to explore the relationship between the school department and the city. Chipman said the city now gives the school department more financial authority than required by the state. He wants to look at consolidating financial planning for both the school system and municipal government under one city agency.

If the city has an elected mayor, he said, the commission might want to reduce the number of at-large councilors. There are currently four.

Also, rather than combine all proposed charter reforms into one package for voter approval, Chipman advocates listing each item on the ballot separately. That would lower the risk of voters rejecting a package and the commission ending up with nothing at all accomplished, he said.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com

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