October 15, 2013

Three vie for Portland City Council seat

The race for a four-year, at-large term pits two political newcomers against veteran Jill Duson.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Duson, meanwhile, cast a crucial vote to sell the plaza, even though she proclaimed she could have gotten a better deal. She said she respects the process undertaken by the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee.

Her opponents both knocked Duson over the plaza sale – Smaha believes she should have held out for a better deal, while Shorr doesn’t support the sale of public space.

Duson said holding out for a better deal would have been a bad idea, and pushed back against the suspicion that she would advocate for the sale of additional public spaces, calling the notion “ridiculous.”

Duson has supported several efforts that some argue limit free speech. She supported requiring street artists to register at City Hall before selling their work on sidewalks, a buffer zone around an abortion clinic and banning panhandling in street medians.

Duson missed the vote on panhandling, but said she would have supported the ban – reversing her position from a year ago.

Although the ordinance was essentially the same, Duson said she was moved to change her position because “the conversation around it was completely different.” She rejected the notion that her opinion changed when public sentiment changed.

“I’m not wishy-washy,” she said. “I don’t change my mind based on how many people come into the chamber.”

Duson said she is interested to see how the fire chief will implement the recommendations for a top-down study of the department.

Other departments – such as health and human services, as well as public services – could benefit from similar reviews conducted by in-house staff, she said.

Education and housing are also issues Duson hopes to focus on, if re-elected.

Shorr supports the city’s ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, but Duson will be voting against the referendum, saying it should be a statewide effort. Both believe the city should respect the will of the voters.

Smaha, however, believes in personal liberties but is undecided about the referendum. The council should stay out of policing, he said.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:rbillings@mainetoday.com Twitter: @randybillings

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