Politics

December 10, 2012

Portland wants state to hear urban voices

The mayor taps into coalitions and he plans to coordinate with the city's legislators to advance Portland's interests.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Senate President Justin Alfond, left, a Portland Democrat, will be among those meeting with Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, right, to talk about city priorities.

Staff File Photos

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PORTLAND’S PRIORITIES

Protecting and increasing revenue sharing

Protecting the city from possible threats to public education funding posed by charter schools

Obtaining bonds to improve the working waterfront, upgrade stormwater systems, and fund research and development

Instituting a regional sales tax

Pursuing regional tax increment financing

Expanding the so-called circuit-breaker property tax relief program

In recent weeks, Brennan has reached out to the Service Center Coalition and the METRO Coalition to develop a common agenda.

The service center group is comprised of administrators of 44 communities that draw and serve people regionally, but don't receive any additional revenue to maintain infrastructure.

The Metro Coalition is an alliance of Portland, South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Scarborough and Westbrook that largely seeks to lower operating costs through collective bidding.

Biddeford City Manager John Bubier, who chairs the Service Center Coalition, said he believes the alliance will be helpful in the upcoming session, because the mayor's coalition can speak with their state delegations with more authority.

"I think in many cases legislators think of senior staff and management people as just that -- we provide support to councils and mayors throughout the state, but we are not elected officials," Bubier said.

Also, John Martin's loss in November could be a blow to the influence of the rural caucus at a time where urban areas are gaining momentum economically and politically.

Martin, of Eagle Lake, had served in the Legislature for more than 40 years, getting around term limits enacted in 1993 by alternating between the House and the Senate.

Bubier praised Martin's legislative experience and his willingness to hear other viewpoints, but noted the legislator's ability to organize and advocate for rural interests in the Legislature.

"He certainly was very powerful and he had his own way of looking at things," Bubier said.

LEPAGE IS A FACTOR

Perhaps the defining interaction between Gov. Paul LePage and Alfond was when the governor called Alfond a "little spoiled brat."

Since being chosen as senate president, Alfond has reached out to LePage, sending him a hand-written invitation to dinner so the two could find some common ground.

LePage has yet to respond to that invitation, Alfond said.

Brennan doesn't think the icy relationship between the two will hurt Portland's ability to enact its agenda.

"I don't think he's in any different position than anyone else in the State House at this point in terms of his relationship with the governor," Brennan said. "I think everybody is at a distinct disadvantage. I think it's been shown that Republicans have had difficulties at times dealing with the governor in the same way Democrats have." 

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @randybillings

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