PORTLAND – When Portland voters head to the polls Nov. 8, they will be faced with a choice in the mayoral race: politics as usual, or a new kind of leadership?

While the premise of the elected mayor was that Portland needs new leadership, there is no shortage of traditional politicians in the race. Some have been players in City Hall for years; others have little history with city issues.

We have a chance to step away from outdated leadership styles. Electing the same faces is not going to bring about change.

Portland’s elected mayor must not be confused with the outgoing ceremonial mayor or with a traditional executive mayor. Our new charter is unique and it calls for a mayor with expertise in facilitation, collaboration and consensus-building.

Other candidates, seeing the groundswell of support for this change, have started to extol the value of this type of leadership. However, Portland voters do not need to elect either a novice or a practiced political salesman to find the change they seek.

In fact, this facilitative leadership has been gradually affecting policy and political decision-making in Portland for years. I’ve been practicing it here for almost a decade.

As president of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization I organized the neighborhood when Adams School was being closed because City Hall was unresponsive to local concerns. We gave residents the information they needed, facilitated discussion about what the community wanted, and advanced ideas based upon points of agreement.

This process provided decisive direction and will result in the construction of affordable housing later this year.

Recently, I have been chairing the Franklin Street Redesign Study, which grew out of a grassroots effort to prevent the widening of Franklin Street.

Collaborating with other neighborhood and civic organizations, I organized a visioning workshop, engaging over 70 participants in a consensus-based process that turned the discussion of Franklin Street one hundred and eighty degrees.

Then, with business and neighborhood leaders from across the city, as well as state and federal officials, I identified alternatives to the city’s plans. And now, after working with both the Baldacci and LePage administrations, we are on our way to having a ‘shovel ready’ set of plans that offer economic development while ensuring better access for bikes, pedestrians, and cars.

Portland needs and deserves a mayor who will turn the planning process around, putting public engagement first instead of last.

We can be forward thinking about development opportunities, instead of being reactive when the next big proposal comes to town. Through meaningful public engagement we can produce both the political capital to achieve our goals and the force to hold City Hall accountable.

As mayor I’ll facilitate meaningful public engagement to produce the political capital to achieve a number of specific policy proposals.

For example: As our economy becomes ever more dependent on innovation and creativity we need to ensure that we’re educating for the future, and attracting the skilled professionals that will generate jobs and economic vitality decades down the road. To that end I’ll work to implement the plan to redevelop Bayside.

City Hall has had close to a decade to enact this community-developed vision, but has done little.

I’ll work with residents, businesses and developers to encourage the construction of the parks, sidewalks and housing that are necessary to encourage the growth of a high density mixed-use neighborhood that’s attractive to tomorrow’s workforce.

Additionally, I’ll push for the institution of free but optional citywide pre-school education. Countless studies, and my own experience as a teacher, have proven that there is no public investment, educational or otherwise, where taxpayers get more bang for their buck than pre-school. Children attending preschool go on to graduate from high school and college in significantly higher percentages than those who don’t and they earn on average 30 to 40 percent more than their counterparts.

By rebuilding Bayside we can widen our tax-base and grow our economy by attracting young, skilled professional workers. By ensuring access to preschool we can prepare the next generation of Portlanders for long-term success.

Portland has inspired me to realize the promises of facilitative leadership on a wide range of issues in our city over the years.

I am proud to discuss my candidacy for mayor of Portland, and encourage voters on Nov. 8 to vote for change that has been tested and proven right here in our community.

— Special to the Press Herald