October 19, 2011

Peter Bryant: Looking for change? ‘One call does it all’

The candidate, who has never held office and has raised no funds, wants a more personal City Hall.

By Jason Singer jsinger@pressherald.com
Assistant City Editor / Online

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Peter Bryant

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AGE: 68

ADDRESS: 18 Back Cove Estates

PERSONAL: Married to Audrey Bryant. Daughter, Julie Harding, 39

EDUCATION: Deering High School

OCCUPATION: Retired merchant seaman




• Bring back “Big Trash Day.”

• Get rid of blue city trash bags.

• Reduce waiting time for building permits.

• Bring U.S. Coast Guard cutters back to Portland.


PETER BRYANT will answer questions from Press Herald readers during an hourlong live chat with the candidate starting at noon today. Go to www.pressherald.com to participate.

He has hammered the City Council during the race. At one debate, the moderator asked Bryant what would be the toughest part about being mayor. He said, “Working with City Council.”

He also has had a few stumbles during the campaign. He’s long-winded, and has run out of the allotted time to answer more than half of his questions during mayoral forums.

At the “So You Think You Can Mayor?” forum hosted by the League of Young Voters, each candidate was given one challenge, which they could use to ask any opponent any question.

Most candidates targeted incumbent Mayor Nick Mavodones or the field’s other front-runners and asked about economic development, school disrepair or other hot-button issues.

Bryant chose to ask firefighter Chris Vail, one of the field’s long shots, whether firefighters have the appropriate license to drive firetrucks.

When Vail said, “They have Maine driver’s licenses,” Bryant badgered him to answer the question.

“I guess it shows what’s important to him,” said one of his opponents, Jodie Lapchick, after the debate.

Under state law, firefighters are exempt from a requirement to get a special license to drive trucks. Bryant said this week that they should still get truck licenses, for safety.

Despite the bumps, Bryant’s colorful personality continues to play mostly well to crowds. At a forum last week hosted by the West End Neighborhood Association, Bryant said he would “fix” the permitting process at City Hall.

It takes three months for someone to get a building permit, he said, and it should take no more than a week or two.

Bryant said he wouldn’t allow certain city staff members to go home on his first day as mayor until they came to him with a plan to shorten the permitting process. He drew loud cheers and laughs.

“It kills the contractors and it kills the city’s coffers,” Bryant said. “We could get tax-producing property up three months earlier if we could speed up the process.”

City spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said the city has reduced its staff in recent years, which some contractors and candidates have cited as a reason for the delays.

But the city also has made technological improvements and ordinance changes to speed up the permitting process, said Penny St. Louis, the city’s planning director.

She said Portland will soon begin tracking the time it takes to issue permits.

“If you issue solid plans, the permitting process goes quickly. If you issue plans that need revision and back-and-forth, then obviously that slows it down,” she said.

According to the city charter, the city manager would oversee the city staff, not the mayor. But Bryant said that, through the city manager or directly, he would speed up the permitting process.

"We’re waiting for a bunch of pencil-pushers up there that don’t really care,” he said. “That’s unacceptable and won’t happen with me as mayor.”

Staff Writer Jason Singer can be contacted at 791-6437 or at: jsinger@pressherald.com

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