July 10, 2013

Portland mayor to public: Come talk to me

Michael Brennan extends his outreach with a 'Meet the Mayor' night on Thursday.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – Michael Brennan has been on the job for more than 18 months and if you haven't met Portland's first popularly elected, full-time mayor in 88 years, then Thursday night's meeting might be just the opportunity you have been waiting for.

click image to enlarge

In this August 2012 file photo, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan meets with residents of Peaks Island. Mayor Brennan will host his first "Meet the Mayor" session in Portland on Thursday, July 11, 2013.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

Mayor Brennan, who defeated 14 other candidates in November 2011 to earn the right to serve a four-year term as mayor, will host his first "Meet the Mayor" session.

Nicole Clegg, the city's spokeswoman, said the session is an opportunity for the public to discuss issues they feel the city should prioritize.

Clegg said "Meet the Mayor" will begin at 5 p.m. in Room 209 of Portland City Hall. It should last about 90 minutes.

While Brennan certainly hasn't been in hiding, he said tonight's session will give Portlanders, who might be reluctant to meet with him in private, the opportunity to ask questions or express concerns in public.

"When I first ran for mayor a lot of people raised the issue of government being more transparent and accessible," he said during a Wednesday night interview.

Brennan said he has tried to be as accessible as possible to his constituents. He hosts a monthly call-in show on public television, and tries to answer phone calls and e-mails. Brennan regularly attends district meetings held by city councilors.

Portland eliminated the position of elected mayor in 1923. That changed in 2011, when Brennan was elected by city residents -- ending an 88-year system where city councilors chose one of their own to serve in what had been a largely ceremonial position.

Brennan said he hopes Meet the Mayor will provide an opportunity for a diverse group of constituents to participate but he recognizes that a special interest group might attend and that one issue could dominate the conversation.

On its Facebook page, Occupy Maine, the group that camped out in Portland's Lincoln Park for several months, is urging members to attend tonight's meeting.

Occupy Maine wants Brennan to know that they want the city to save Congress Square Plaza from development.

In late May, the City Council's Housing and Community Development Committee voted to negotiate the sale of most of Congress Square Plaza to Rockbridge Capital for an event center. The event center would eventually become part of the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel complex at Congress and High streets.

Brennan said he plans to talk about several initiatives he has introduced, including one to ensure that within three years 50 percent of the food served in Portland public schools is locally grown.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

 

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