Recently, Portland has witnessed a near breakdown of its city government. It’s a problem many City Hall watchers saw brewing months ago.

In a recent letter (Dec. 13), Cheryl Leeman, a former mayor and councilwoman, took issue with the current mayor, Ethan Strimling, for not listening enough. But in the end, perhaps our problems can be traced back to former city leaders who were unprepared, or inept in recognizing the needed changes in a quickly growing city.

We need more forward thinking from our city leaders, not promises and complaints.

I personally join the growing call for a change of our city charter. We don’t need a new charter to decide whether Portland needs a popularly elected mayor, but rather a “fix” in the flaw of our last effort.

We need and deserve the power to elect a leader who isn’t limited to ribbon cutting, but who truly manages our city and is accountable to its voters. We do not deserve an unelected city manager who can act nearly unilaterally and hole up in an ornate office until the next meeting of a rubber-stamping City Council.

Portland must decide once and for all: Do we vest leadership in a popularly elected mayor, or in a city manager? Having both in current form is not the answer. Until that happens, we will continue with a dysfunction city government spinning out of control, one where a non-elected leader calls the shots and makes internal power plays.

We need a strong mayor, whoever that may be. And city staff must be accountable to that person whom we, the people, choose.

Let us all call for that change now, loudly and without exception. And let us not forget the power of recalls when a City Council appears ill prepared or unwilling to move us forward.

Jay Norris


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