Saturday, April 19, 2014
By John Spritz
It’s been about a year now since Michael Brennan became Portland’s first publicly elected mayor in close to 90 years. This reporter was recently allowed to shadow Mayor Brennan (henceforth known as MB) for a full day. I humbly offer the following record of that day, to help expose the inner workings of local government.
8:45 a.m. Darn, I overslept! MB told me he starts every day with a run and I swear I set my alarm but the next thing I knew it was – oh well. I’ll catch him at his next appointment.
9:00 a.m. The steps of City Hall. MB is due here to issue a proclamation. Did you ever notice that the grillwork above the central archway reads RESVRGAM CITY HALL? Hm. 16 letters. And there are 15 steps up to the front porch. And there are 14 letters in the name “Michael Brennan.” Coincidence? I don’t think so. I think that –
– Here he is! MB is wearing a blue blazer, khaki pants, a light blue shirt and a red-striped tie. It’s hard to hear what he’s saying into the microphone, something about “whereas” and “whereas” and “whereas” and “now therefore be it resolved.” I can’t really tell what’s going on, but everybody looks pleased.
I try to catch MB’s eye. Strange, he seems to ignore me. No time to ponder this, have to race to –
10:00 a.m. A meeting of the MRC at GPCOG (beats me). There was frost on my car this morning, the first time since last spring. You know, that makes me wonder if –
– Right, the meeting. We’re in a big room around an O-shaped table. (Actually it’s more of an O with square corners.) I count 12 people, beside MB and me. Six wear ties, six don’t. One wears a sweater. Lot of talk about, um, cities and towns and stuff.
Then the meeting’s over and –
11:00 a.m. We drive up to Augusta. MB tells funny stories about his days in the Maine Senate when – oh I can’t repeat those. Yes, sir. Yes, sir, I understand completely.
Anyhow, in Augusta, we go to a meeting and I don’t remember what they discussed but it seemed important. Something about Maine and cities and money. Then we had lunch inside the Civic Center: roast pork, mashed potatoes, applesauce, slices of pie for dessert. When I came back to the table with my third slice of pie, MB looked at me kind of funny.
Back to Portland.
2:30 p.m. Now we’re in Room 209 of City Hall. Ninethy-seven percent of the meetings inside City Hall take place in Room 209. I don’t know why, that’s just the way it is. Room 209 isn’t very attractive. It really could use a paint job, something lighter, spruce it up, maybe a rose color or a pale blue. One of our bedrooms at homes has –
– Sorry! The people in Room 209 were meeting with MB to talk about The Creative Economy. Classic MB pose: smiling, eyeglasses perched high atop his not-overly-hirsute pate, fingertips pressed together in that tent formation. Key fact: everyone calls him “Mister Mayor.”
3:30 p.m. The meeting’s over. I wait outside for MB, but he doesn’t come out. Even when there are only four people left in the room, he stays inside. Three people. Two people. Now he’s alone in there, and I‘m still out in the hallway. So I look inside and – he’s gone! How did he do that?
OK, his schedule says his next meeting –
4:00 p.m. Racing across town, I catch up to MB at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. “It’s funny,” I say to MB, “it’s almost like you’re trying to avoid me.” He smiles at me in that mayorly way of his.
Lots of very serious people are in the room, all sitting around an O-shaped table (well, not really O-shaped, it’s more like – have I said this before?). Just before they start talking, I have to go to the bathroom, but when I come back, the meeting room door is locked! I gesture to MB to come and open it, but he and the other people keep talking, so I wait outside.
5:30 p.m. The meeting’s finally over. As we walk to the parking lot, MB has a Poland Spring water and a Chobani yoghurt. “I’ll see you back at City Hall at 7:00 p.m. for the Council meeting,” he says. Right-o!
8:00 p.m. The janitor says he can’t understand it, there never are City Council meetings on Tuesday nights. But I’ll keep waiting.
11:00 p.m. It’s very quiet in here.