October 26, 2011

Fireboat accident points up early criticism of city policy

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

PORTLAND – Maybe Peter Bryant should run for president of the Soothsayers’ Club.

For the last two months, the mayoral candidate has hammered the Portland Fire Department for not requiring licenses for its fireboat captains.
“If the city had a rescue helicopter, would it let anyone fly it?” Bryant asked last month. “Of course not.

The same should go for the fireboat. If the people on the boat don’t know the rules of the sea, accidents can happen.”

One month later, he appears prescient. On Oct. 15, the city’s fireboat hit an underwater object, sustaining $38,000 worth of damage, city officials said.

Bryant, a former firefighter, said the episode only validates his position. He also said firefighters should get truck licenses if they plan to drive the city’s firetrucks.

“One, it reduces our liability,” he said. “And two, it’s a safety issue.”

Bryant said the two firefighters involved in the grounding should have received stiffer punishments. If elected mayor Nov. 8, he said, he would send a clear message to Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne, who has had two costly fireboat accidents occur under his administration.

“If I’m mayor and this happens a third time,” Bryant said, “heads will roll.”

STRIMLING, MILLER FIRE BACK

During a debate at the Holiday Inn by the Bay on Tuesday, former state Sens. Ethan Strimling and Michael Brennan laid out their visions of the mayor.

Strimling said the city needs a strong, accountable leader who will take responsibility for all of the city’s success and failures instead of passing blame and responsibility to others.

Brennan noted that Strimling doesn’t talk about inclusiveness or collaboration, and said the new mayor will need to be a consensus-builder, especially given the position’s limited powers under the charter.

After the debate, Strimling fired back at Brennan.

“Of course the mayor needs to collaborate,” Strimling said. “But when I talk about leadership, I’m talking about someone who will make decisions and have accountability.

“The Maine State Pier (redevelopment) didn’t fall apart because there was a lack of process or collaboration. It fell apart because no one took the reins and said, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ and sold that vision.”

Later Tuesday, candidate Markos Miller took Brennan to task. Miller has run on a platform of collaboration and his background as a community organizer.

“It’s nice to see Mike Brennan echo my call for inclusive, consensus-building leadership as the most important facet of the new mayoral position, but it seems that this is something that Mike has only recently woken up to,” Miller said.

“There’s also a big difference between working with politically motivated incumbents in the Legislature in Augusta and the work I’ve been doing in Portland for years and that this mayoral position calls for: facilitating community-based planning and building policy from the grass-roots level up.”

DODGE MEANS BUSINESS ...

That’s the catchy slogan the lone Republican candidate, Richard Dodge, has plastered across his campaign materials. The play on words is trying to send the message that Dodge is a fiscally conservative, pro-business Republican.

He wants to cut the number of employees at City Hall, pursue out-of-town businesses and, in order to save money, block non-Portland residents from accessing city social services.

“We need to take care of our own and stop trying to be everything to everybody,” he said.

Yes, he’d need to convince the city manager and City Council to accomplish most of those things. But first, he’s trying to get elected. At Tuesday’s debate, Dodge repeated his assertion that the other candidates – mostly Democrats – pretend to be DINOs: Democrats In Name Only.

Dodge said they talk about being pro-business and anti-regulation, but their records say otherwise.

“I’m the only true fiscal conservative,” he said.

CARMONA GOES ON OFFENSE

How do you know that Ralph Carmona wants to improve the city more than he wants to become mayor? Look at his record, he said.

Last year, he led an effort to get immigrants the right to vote in Portland. “Anybody who wanted to be mayor wouldn’t touch that,” he said.

Carmona later said that City Councilor David Marshall, who’s also running for mayor, fought along with Carmona to get that measure approved.

DUSON NABS CELEBRITIES

The Dartmouth Aires, an a cappella group that’s being featured on NBC’s national talent show “The Sing Off,” will croon for mayoral candidate and City Councilor Jill Duson this weekend.

Michael Odokara-Okigbo, the Aires’ lead performer, is Duson’s godson. The event will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday at Portland High School.

Proceeds will go toward Duson’s campaign. Tickets can be bought at www.jillduson.com.

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

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