During a long writing career, I wrote many speeches for state and local officials in Maine and elsewhere.

A small number of those speeches required in-depth research on a timely topic of public interest. The vast majority did not. I did just enough research to make the audience feel acknowledged and to provide a few ideas for addressing the issue. My main task was to make the speechmakers look informed and eloquent.

I do not want any of my property taxes to pay for a speechwriter for Portland’s mayor. I expect local officials to speak from their knowledge of and reflection on important local issues. I want their own thoughts, unfiltered by someone who is paid to create sound bites for them.

The city staff already includes a communications director. On the rare occasion when Mayor Ethan Strimling or city councilors need in-depth research for a speech, I suggest that they seek assistance from her or other City Hall staffers.

It is the trend these days for officials to say they want to engage the public in issues. Too often, that consists of officials spouting packaged “talking points” that are aimed at shaping and managing public opinion, rather than actually listening to what residents want. I know that, because I’ve written a lot of talking points in my career.

The new City Hall job sounds like it will include creating such talking points. I don’t consider that a good use of tax money, either.

We have people in our city who go homeless and hungry every day. We have seniors struggling to pay property taxes. We have inadequate public transit, way too little low-income housing and school buildings that are falling apart.

We do not need, nor can we afford, to spend money on someone writing pretty words for our elected officials.

Shoshana Hoose


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