March 26, 2012

As full-time mayor, Brennan staying busy

Portland's top elected official makes the city's voice heard in Augusta and builds a coalition.

By Tom Bell
Staff Writer


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Portland Mayor Michael Brennan confers with Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, at the State House on Thursday prior to a public hearing.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Portland Mayor Michael Brennan attends a lunch meeting with other mayors on Thursday. From left are Biddeford’s Alan Casavant, Waterville’s Karen Heck, Brennan and Westbrook’s Colleen Hilton.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

AUGUSTA – In the battle over Gov. Paul LePage's proposed cuts to Maine's General Assistance program, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan is playing a leading role in the opposition. He's communicating regularly with the Portland delegation, speaking at hearings in Augusta and helping organize a coalition with the mayors of nine other Maine cities to pressure lawmakers.

In the past month, he has also opposed two LePage bills to expand school choice, both of which were rejected last week by a legislative panel, and has secured state funding and an accelerated timetable for the $280,000 project to dredge the city's cruise ship berth.

For those who supported the idea that Portland should have an elected mayor, Brennan's work this legislative session is seen as validation.

"What we hoped would happen is happening," said Pamela Plumb, who headed the city's Charter Commissioner two years ago when it created the new position of an elected, full-time mayor.

What the Charter Commission had hoped for was that a full-time mayor, among other things, would be better able to advocate for the city's interests with the federal and state governments.

Portland voters last November appeared to buy into that idea, choosing for mayor a candidate who is a familiar figure in the State House. Brennan served in the Maine Senate between 2002 and 2006, including a session as Senate majority leader.

In the old days -- between 1923 and 2011 -- Portland's mayor was selected by the City Council for a one-year term. The job was largely a ceremonial one, paying $7,195 a year. Mayors typically held day jobs.

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