October 12, 2011

With lots of candidates, little time to answer

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - It's indicative of the size of the field for next month's mayoral election that a forum at Deering High School next week will be held in the gym.

ON THE RADIO

TUNE IN to NewsRadio 560 WGAN at 8:08 a.m. today to hear Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy discuss the mayor’s race.

"We can't hold all the candidates in one room," said Kirsten Platt, a history teacher at the high school, adding that the 15 candidates will be given a time limit for answering questions from students during a one-hour class period on Thursday, Oct. 20.

"It will literally be like 40 seconds and then they will be asked to sit down," she said. "It will be very strict."

She said a strictly enforced time limit will also fend off any charges of partiality, given that one of the candidates will have home-field advantage: Markos Miller teaches Spanish at the school.

For the forum, Platt said she suggested that the students research the candidates, find out what issues they've said are a priority and then focus their questions on those matters.

The students in her two classes that are participating are sophomores, so it's unlikely any are old enough to vote. But with the focus on the candidates, the issues and the ranked-choice voting method that will be used Nov. 8, the students will "be able to explain to their parents who to vote for and how to vote," Platt said.

Platt said her students researched the city's decision to ditch popular elections for mayor in 1923 after a Ku Klux Klan-backed campaign, tinged with anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish sentiments, to get rid of the position. They also looked into last year's charter change that brought back the full-time job, with voters -- not the City Council -- picking a mayor.

"They, like many Portland voters, are wondering, 'OK, so what does the mayor do and why is this important?' " she said.

The forum is a natural outgrowth of the classes, which focus on the Constitution when not researching Portland's mayoral campaign, Platt said.

She noted that the founders apparently never considered anything other than one man, one vote when drafting that document.

"There's no ranked-choice voting in there," she said. "There's no voting in there at all, in fact," Platt added, pointing out that the Constitution didn't mandate popular elections for any federal offices.

OPPONENTS CRITICIZED

Until last Friday, mild-mannered Markos Miller hadn't taken many swings -- if any -- at his 14 mayoral opponents. That changed Friday.

Miller held a press conference at Lincoln Park to discuss the redesigning of the Franklin Street Arterial, a project he has spearheaded in the city.

During the press conference, he criticized some of his opponents for talking the talk, but not walking the walk.

He pointed out that City Councilor and incumbent Mayor Nick Mavodones promised at his inauguration to have community-input meetings across the city. That never happened, Miller said.

He also criticized Ethan Strimling for describing the mayor's position as a "CEO-type position."

"It's not a CEO-type position," he said. "The mayor won't have the powers a (chief executive officer) has. The mayor will only be successful through consensus-building."

Miller said Jed Rathband has talked about the need for community engagement, but hasn't actually done much himself.

"I think it's fair to look at people's records," Miller said, "and see if they match up with what the candidates say about themselves. I hope voters do that with all of us."

In addition to being a Spanish teacher, Miller is a community organizer. He led the community-input processes for the redevelopment of the former Adams School, and the soon-to-be built pedestrian and bike connector linking the Back Cove Trail to Bayside.

He's running on the promise of better community engagement by city government.

(Continued on page 2)

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